Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Washington today to discuss regional security and economic issues with President Obama. His overriding concern is confirmation of the strength of US-Japan ties.
Pyongyang's recent nuclear tests have hawks in neighboring South Korea and Japan clamoring for nuclear weapons of their own and China jittery about its own stockpile. The US is caught in the middle.
The North Korea nuclear test may well bring tougher sanctions. But the US can use the lure of liberty – visas – to undercut the Kim regime and challenge China's support of it.
China has taken a harder line on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, but as the UN Security Council weighs expanding sanctions, Beijing will still likely seek to limit their strength.
Google Maps released its first atlas of North Korea on Monday, which outlines major roads, landmarks, hospitals, and prison labor camps within the country's borders.
South Korea's incoming president, Park Geun-hye, says she will reach out to the North and offer humanitarian aid. Some analysts doubt her sincerity and expect her to take a more moderate approach.
The US believes North Korea's satellite is out of control, but the South Koreans insist that it is functioning normally.
The Obama administration has made it clear the US will not tolerate Iran or Syria's acquisition of nuclear weapons, but North Korea's missile program is a tricker situation diplomatically.
Beijing's restrained response to a widely condemned rocket launch is based on its concern about North Korea's stability – and its view that a tough UN resolution could worsen regional security.
Despite U.N. sanctions and international warnings, North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Wednesday. Most analysts agree the move was intended to bolster national support for Kim Jong-un.