It's tempting to laugh off North Korea's pathetic attempt to upstage the United States' successful Fourth of July, rocket-red-glare launch of the space shuttle Discovery. The communist nation's test of six scuds and a long-range missile dud all plummeted into the Sea of Japan.
The contrast between their primitive rocket technology and ours couldn't have been more embarrassing to tin-pot dictator Kim Jong Il and his henchmen, but that still doesn't vitiate the provocative nature of their act.
First, they ignored pleas from the international community - including their few friends such as China - not to break Asia's missile testing moratorium, particularly of the long-range Taepodong-2 missile that theoretically could reach the United States with a light payload. Fortunately, it failed less than 40 seconds after launch.
Second, despite the failure, North Korea's missile scientists no doubt learned a lot, perhaps enabling them to succeed next time. But even if they fail again, they'll learn still more. Eventually their failures will lead to success. The civilized world cannot let that happen.
So far, diplomacy has had no effect on North Korea - nor, for that matter, on Iran. Maybe that will change if China, Russia and the thimbleful of other nations who are soft on these rogue regimes support the United States and others who seek to impose economic and trade sanctions.
Not only diplomacy, but the remaining integrity and credibility of the United Nations is at stake. As it did with Iraq, the Security Council has passed a number of resolutions demanding Iran and North Korea stop their nuclear weapon programs or face the consequences.
But the "consequences" are vague and toothless, which does nothing to deter rogue regimes from defying the international will. If China and other soft-on-rogue nations won't let the United Nations put teeth in resolutions - if all it can do is issue empty threats - then the United Nations is failing its historic mission, and that raises the question of whether if it makes any sense to belong.
Kim Jong Il's challenge calls for action, not more meaningless resolutions.
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