Today's Papers

Obama Dreams of a Nuclear-Free World

The papers lead with the repercussions of North Korea’s missile test as diplomats spent the day trying to figure out how the world should respond. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama seized the moment and vowed that his government would pursue an ambitious effort to reduce the number of nuclear weapons around the world while recognizing that countries have a right to pursue nuclear power for peaceful purposes. In Prague, Obama condemned the launch as “provocative” and said it illustrated “the need for action, not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.” Many fear that in launching the three-stage rocket, North Korea was testing its ability to deliver nuclear weapons.

In a piece that gives high marks to Obama’s first trans-Atlantic trip, USA Todaypoints out that while it was “designed to promote peace and prosperity,” the president got a stark reminder “not only of the complexities of foreign policy, but also of how his plans can be complicated by those seeking to test his young administration.” Obama arrived in Turkey last night, and the Washington Postnotes that North Korea’s missile launch “threatened to overshadow Obama’s first visit to a Muslim country as president.”

Speaking to a crowd of more than 20,000 in Prague, Obama said that “as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” He vowed that the United States would lead a new effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and he will call for an international summit in Washington to figure out a way to stop the spread of nuclear material. The Wall Street Journal hears word that Obama is likely to propose a new international agency to pursue that goal. Obama said he would seek a ban on nuclear testing and push for the creation of an international nuclear-fuel bank, which the WSJ says might be hosted by Kazakhstan, to allow nations to develop nuclear power in a peaceful way. The New York Timespoints out that Obama’s strategy is “based on the idea” that if the United States shows leadership on the nuclear issue, “reluctant allies and partners around the world will be more likely to rewrite nuclear treaties and enforce sanctions against North Korea and Iran.”

After meeting for three hours yesterday, the United Nations Security Council could not agree on a statement condemning North Korea’s move and diplomats vowed to continue working to come up with a response over the next few days. U.S. officials and several of its allies, including Japan, France, and Britain, say that North Korea’s launch was a violation of a 2006 U.N. resolution. And although most members of the Security Council wanted to condemn the launch, Russia and China resisted, saying they weren’t sure North Korea had violated the resolution. The Los Angeles Timeshears word that at least one of the two countries even opposed a statement that would have simply expressed “concern” over the launch.

So was the test successful? Depends on whom you believe. Within hours of the launch, North Korea said it had successfully put a communications satellite into orbit and that it was transmitting patriotic music. But the United States and South Korea said that the rocket didn’t put a new satellite into orbit. The NYT off-leads with a look at how analysts overwhelmingly called North Korea’s launch a failure, which, tied with previous missteps, could “reveal a significant quality control problem in one of the world’s most isolated nations.” But not everyone is ready to dismiss the launch as yet another embarrassment for the country. The WP says that the launch showed North Korea has made “significant progress in rocket engineering compared with the failed test in 2006 of the same kind of missile.” In a piece inside, the LAT says that even if the launch didn’t meet North Korea’s objectives, it still showed “disturbing progress in that country’s pursuit of the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead.” One senior Department of Defense official says the Pentagon is now “clearly more worried” about North Korea’s capabilities. At the very least, the country has now shown it is able to launch a multistage rocket, which could “bolster its reputation among other states seeking that capability.”

The WP fronts a look at how the Pentagon has spent lots of time discussing the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah to try to figure out whether some long-term lessons can be learned from the 34-day battle. Some within the military contend that the war should be seen as a warning of what could happen if the United States redirects many of its resources to counterinsurgency efforts so that it is better prepared for wars like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some are warning that if the United States becomes too obsessed with fighting low-intensity guerilla forces, it will leave itself vulnerable to a more conventional force like Hezbollah, which was able to embarrass the Israeli forces. Advocates of the counterinsurgency approach say those pushing most heavily for the lessons learned of 2006 are officers who “are determined to return the Army to a more familiar past, built around preparing for conventional warfare.”

The NYT fronts an analysis of the administration’s attempts to get the Pakistani government and military to put a stronger focus on battling al-Qaida and the Taliban and notes that some analysts in Pakistan and the United States “are already putting forward apocalyptic timetables for the country.” One report said the Pakistani government has somewhere between 6 to 12 months before the situation gets really dangerous, while one guerrilla warfare specialist said the country could be facing internal collapse within six months. But many in Pakistan aren’t convinced, and see the warnings as merely an attempt by the United States to pursue its own interests.

Pakistan had another bloody weekend that once again showed how violence in the country is not limited to its lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border. The country suffered three suicide attacks in 24 hours, the deadliest of which came yesterday, when a bomber blew himself up at a Shiite Muslim mosque outside the capital and killed at least 26 people.

Slate’s Daniel Engber may get “intense nausea” from some 3-D movies, but he’d better get used to it, because they don’t seem to be going anywhere soon. The LAT fronts a look at how movie executives are looking at the big opening weekend for Monsters vs. Aliens and reconsidering applying the technology to several of their upcoming releases. There are still few theaters properly equipped with the technology to show the films, but experts say that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes more widespread. “Monsters vs. Aliens is the BC-AD of the 3-D platform,” said the head of Imax Filmed Entertainment. “Fifteen years from now, when people are talking about 3-D, they will talk about the business before Monsters vs. Aliens and the business after Monsters vs. Aliens. It’s the line in the sand.” So far, 3-D movies have largely been in the kid-friendly category, but executives say it’s only a matter of time before the format starts hitting more adult fare.