Vice President Joe Biden often rankles White House officials with his blunt assessments of international crises, but Biden may be spot-on when it comes to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il: "God only knows what he wants."
Biden's comments came after North Korea scoffed at new United Nations sanctions aimed at the communist regime. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted the restrictions June 12 after North Korea tested a nuclear device May 25 and vowed to continue developing nuclear weapons. North Korean officials say they will view any attempt by the United States to enforce the sanctions as an act of war.
Pentagon officials told a Senate committee that if North Korea continues its weapons development, the regime could have the missile capacity to hit the United States in as little as three years.
During a White House visit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on June 16, President Barack Obama called a nuclear-armed North Korea "a grave threat." In a joint press conference, Lee said the international community shouldn't reward North Korea's threats with financial concessions or aid, as in the past. Obama agreed: "We are going to break that pattern."
But breaking the pattern will likely prove difficult, and North Korea may try to use human pawns: On June 8, a North Korean court sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor. Authorities detained Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, near the North Korean border in March. They accused the women of crossing the border illegally and attempting to disparage the North Korean government-charges Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "baseless."
The new UN sanctions-approved by China and Russia, which have sided with North Korea in the past-include new financial restrictions, a ban on arms exports, and permission for countries to search North Korean ships at sea.