Stuart Rose — proliferation is the immediate problem, and to address it a blockade isn’t actually necessary. Continuation of what we’ve been doing for years now — using intelligence to identify suspicious shipments, and intercepting them (with Israel occasionally attacking plutonium reactors under construction) — is actually a fairly adequate method. That isn’t to say it’s a perfectly effective method, of course. But North Korea can only transport prohibited materials to bad customers by sea, with a lesser role for air, and her commercial activities are not so varied or robust that suspect shipments are all that hard to identify.
If there is a tripwire in this regard, it may be hit if Pyongyang starts dealing directly with non-governmental entities; e.g., Al Qaeda.
I saw Charles Krauthammer’s suggestion that Japan be encouraged to go nuclear, and this is one on which I have to disagree with him. Bad idea. What we should be doing instead is staying on track with our missile defense program, instead of cutting its funding, cutting the Multiple Kill Vehicle element entirely from the program, and (an Obama/Gates move that looks insane in light of Pyongyang’s activities in April and May 2009) leaving the intercept sites planned for Alaska incomplete: basically, without their interceptor missiles installed.
Missile defense would be an excellent principle on which to build a ramped-up exercise series with Japan (and Australia, if they’ll join in). We also need to just be bustling about the Far East as noisily as possible, reevaluating the security situation of the Korean peninsula, taking another look at Taiwan’s defense procurement requests, charming the socks off Indonesia, and giving big wet smooches to India, and inviting her armed forces into as many regional exercises as we can come up with. Seems like we haven’t had a good heart-to-heart with Vietnam for way too long. And Thailand? An ally we’ve been neglecting. Really need some joint naval and air exercises with Bangkok. We’d all benefit from practicing some antipiracy and counterterrorism in the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca, with Singapore and the Philippines joining in. A great place for India to participate too.
There’s more than one way of influencing China’s sense of what’s going on. A project best undertaken with a smile.