That free fireworks display Kim Jong-Il put on for our benefit on July Fourth may prove to have been the best day George Bush has had since Zarqawi went to his eternal reward.
For years, Bush has been trying to persuade world opinion that Kim is a psycho who cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. By firing off all those rockets into the Sea of Japan, Kim went a long way toward convincing a hung jury that Bush may have a point. Kim has also provided compelling evidence that missile defense may not be such a silly right-wing idea after all.
Further good news is that the Taepodong-2, which is supposed to be able to put a nuclear warhead on the United States, is years away from being a serious threat. Having sat on the launch pad, fueled and ready to go for two weeks, Kim's rocket burned 42 seconds before plunging into the Sea of Japan. Whether the Taepodong was off course, and North Korea blew it up, or it fizzled, we do not know. But this is the first ICBM test by North Korea in eight years, and it proved a bust.
Today, and for years to come, North Korea poses no missile threat to the U.S. homeland. Indeed, the world market for North Korean missiles probably tanked a bit on July 5, especially as one of Kim's shorter-range rockets almost landed on Mother Russia.
To save the "face" he has lost, Kim is going to have to prove his Taepodong-2 works, which means more testing -- despite the wails of the "international community."
Why is this good news? Because it is better to know than not to know the character and capability of one's adversaries.
Not only has Kim's failed launch left him with egg on his face, he made a fool of every patron he has in Asia. South Korea's president, who has pursued a "sunshine policy" toward Pyongyang and planned a state visit, implored Kim not to launch. He got the wet mitten across the face.
The Chinese, which have been looking after Kim's interests in the Six-Party Talks with the United States, and whose food and fuel remain essential to Kim's survival, also asked him not to launch. Kim dissed them, as well.
Beijing looks to the world today as having far less clout with their little client state than they led the world to believe.
Japan warned Kim not to launch, as the last long-range missile he tested flew directly over the Home Islands. Japan is now severing aid and travel ties, looking hard at missile defense, moving closer to the United States and probably considering its own nuclear deterrent, none of which can make Pyongyang's patron, China, too happy.