Live Fire and Reassurance Missions

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down with the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers yesterday at the State Department to talk about collective security amid North Korea’s recent posturing. Notably absent was China. Washington has been critical about Beijing’s less-than-strong approach to Pyongyang. Beijing wants to restart Six-Party Talks, but at the meeting yesterday, Clinton and her counterparts announced that they would not resume nuclear talks until North Korea makes a real effort to reverse its nuclear program and stops being “provocative and belligerent.” They agreed that North Korea’s recent shelling of the South signified a violation of the armistice at the close of the Korean War and called on China to increase the pressure on the North.

Next in line to try to influence the situation on the Korean peninsula is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. Much as Clinton’s meeting sought to shore up a diplomatic alliance, Mullen will be working on the military side. His goal: make sure the South Korean military knows it has Washington’s support. Mullen’s spokesman Capt. John Kirby said that the the admiral's “principal message is to the South Koreans that we continue to stand by them in the defense of their territory, for stability on the peninsula.” The trip was apparently thrown together rather quickly, even though U.S. officials say the event was planned last week. Yesterday, South Korea’s navy began conducting live-fire exercises in the waters around the peninsula.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates also made a quick visit to an area in need of reassurance. On the heels of President Obama’s visit to the country, and coinciding with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip, Gates landed in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, today. He traveled there from Oman where he thanked the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln for their efforts in supporting the war in Afghanistan and met with Oman’s top officials. But the trip isn’t all about pats on the back. Gates will be assessing progress in Afghanistan as part of a soon-to-be-released review of the war effort. Yesterday, General David Petraeus said that though he is seeing progress in Afghanistan, he isn’t sure that the Afghan army will be able to relieve NATO forces of their security duties by 2014.

And yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano condemned the WikiLeaks release of the Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative, a list of places overseas that are key to our national security. The list includes oil and gas pipelines, rare-earth mines in China, a chokepoint in the Strait of Hormuz and hundreds of other sites. Napolitano said the release could “jeopardize our national security.” If terrorists attacked any of these places, it would harm U.S. interests according to U.S. officials.