It was no coincidence, some analysts say, that North Korea fired its missile and grabbed headlines around the world as Mr. Obama was in the spotlight on his first overseas trip as president.
But the Security Council could not immediately agree on a response to the rocket launch. China urged restraint, warning against any move that could increase tensions or destabilize the rogue nation, even as America's ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, insisted that North Korea's action "merits a clear and strong response." Security Council consultations will continue over "the coming days," she said late Sunday, with an aim of producing a unified approach.
The council's lack of action points to the two-fold difficulties Obama faces in keeping North Korea from backsliding on its commitment to give up its nuclear weapons and materials and, too, in pursuing his broader goal of curtailing global nuclear proliferation.
"This puts Obama in a pretty tough situation," says Mr. Hahm. "He has said the words of the world's leaders have to mean something, so he will want to see something pretty strong come out of the Security Council."
"On the other hand, he has said he is ready to negotiate, so how does he do that without looking to allies like Japan and South Korea [like] he is siding with China and rewarding North Korea for its bad behavior?" Hahm adds.