The Shells of Pyongyang

U.S. special envoy on North Korea Stephen Bosworth has reentered the spotlight thanks to Pyongyang’s latest provocations—an announcement that it has built a shiny new uranium-enrichment facility and, most recently, lobbing artillery fire at its Southern neighbor. Bosworth met with Chinese officials in Beijing yesterday and said that the shelling “of course came up in my conversation with the Chinese.” All sides agreed that it was necessary that “restraint be exercised.” He also said “such conflict is very undesirable” and that Washington and Beijing will continue cooperating on the North Korea issue.

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon meanwhile woke President Obama up shortly before 4 am this morning to notify him of the artillery-fire exchange. Obama got more information on the event during his daily intelligence briefing.

And Obama’s economic team is getting a bit smaller, again. Diana Farrell, deputy director of the White House National Economic Committee, and Michael Barr, assistant secretary for financial institutions at Treasury, are both going to leave within weeks. They were integral to the administration’s post–financial crisis efforts. Of Barr, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner even said that “our country is stronger . . . because of his work.” Unrelated to the economic team, David Axelrod, a senior adviser in the White House, is expected to depart in late January in early February. He had previously announced that he would leave in the spring to get Obama’s re-election campaign moving.