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North Korea sets off its 'fireworks'

“We are urgently consulting with members of the Security Council.”

— John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

“North Korea has gone ahead with the launch despite international protest. That is regrettable from the standpoint of Japan’s security, the stability of international society, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

— Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe

Well, damn. They just didn’t see that coming, huh? While the looney tunes North Korean dictator is launching missiles into the air — including one that could potentially reach U.S. shores — Dear Leader has pissed away billions on his Big Iraq Adventure, and depleted our military.

State Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the long-range missile was the Taepodong-2, North Korea’s most advanced missile with a range of up to 9,320 miles. Experts believe a Taepodong-2 could reach the United States with a light payload.

The launch came after weeks of speculation that the North was preparing to test the Taepodong-2 from a site on its northeast coast. The preparations had generated stern warnings from the United States and Japan, which had threatened possible economic sanctions in response.

Meanwhile, the White House’s probably not doing the happy dance over this story:

President Bush’s stalwart foreign friends are fading fast.

Most of the leaders who defied criticism at home to stand with him on Iraq and win his friendship are no longer players on the world stage, or are on their way out. And it was a small band of brothers to begin with.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he’ll step down before the next national election and is coming under increasing pressure from his own party to do it sooner. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a farewell visit to the United States last week. He is leaving office in September.

Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi resigned in early May after his party’s election losses. Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar was earlier forced out of office, the first casualty of supporting Bush on Iraq.

“It can be a little lonely at the top. And to have stalwart friends like Koizumi or John Howard in Australia or Prime Minister Blair matters a lot,” said Michael Green, a former Bush national security aide.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding