South Korea reported a seismic event resembling an earthquake overnight, which North Korea quickly took credit for, claiming it had successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test. As NBC News reported, if the boast is true, it would "mark a huge jump in Kim Jong Un's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal."
But the boast may not be true and some skepticism is in order. NBC report added, "South Korean officials and some experts questioned whether the explosion was indeed a full-fledged test of a hydrogen device." The New York Times added that experts cautioned that North Korea may have "exaggerated its claims, as it did with its three previous nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009 and 2013."
Responsible officials should probably hold off on drawing sweeping conclusions until there's more information, though Marco Rubio has no use for caution. The senator issued a statement overnight, quickly blaming the purported test on the United States.
"I have been warning throughout this campaign that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama has stood idly by. If this test is confirmed, it will be just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama's weakness."
This is a great example of why Rubio shouldn't pretend to be a grown-up on foreign policy. For one thing, North Korea is an isolated, rogue nuclear dictatorship, with whom we have no leverage.
For another, why would a presidential candidate -- or more specifically, an American presidential candidate -- instinctively respond to world events by effectively asking, "How can I blame this on the United States?"
Finally, if Rubio really wants to talk about a president sitting "idly by" in relation to North Korea, the senator may enjoy learning recent history on the North Korean nuclear program.
As long-time readers may recall, the Clinton administration negotiated an Agreed Framework with North Korea in 1994, which was successful in “bottling up North Korea’s nuclear program for eight years,” and which eased the crisis on the peninsula. In March 2001, Colin Powell said Bush/Cheney would pick up where Clinton/Gore had left off.
The Bush White House immediately rebuked Powell, forced him to walk back his position, and rejected the Agreed Framework. Kim Jong-il hoped for a new round of negotiations, but the Republican administration refused. As Dick Cheney once put it, “We don’t negotiate with evil – we defeat it.” The Republican president instead added North Korea to an “axis of evil.”
By 2002, North Korea had unlocked its fuel rods, kicked out international weapons inspectors, and become more aggressive in pursuing a nuclear weapons program. In response, Bush did nothing, instead focusing his energies on selling the United States on the need for a disastrous invasion of Iraq.
Indeed, Bush argued at the time that the U.S. had to hurry up and invade Iraq before it could acquire nuclear weapons, effectively telling North Korea that the way to avoid an invasion was to advance its nuclear program as quickly as possible -- which it did.
As a result, North Korea became a nuclear state on Bush’s watch, and paid no price for its actions. The world is left with an isolated dictatorship, craving attention, and playing with the most dangerous weapons the world has ever known.
If Rubio wants to hold a U.S. leader responsible for this mess, he might want to consider the president's immediate predecessor.