Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea's nuke test

News and reactions

The New York Times:
North Korea announced the test Monday morning local time — Sunday night in Washington. Coming two days after the country was warned by the United Nations Security Council of severe consequences, the step makes North Korea the eighth nation in history, and arguably the most unstable and most dangerous, to openly test a nuclear weapon. A ninth, Israel, is believed to have nuclear arms but has never said so or announced a test.
The Washington Post recap has this interesting information:
Russia's defense minister said the reported test was equivalent to between 5,000 tons and 15,000 tons of TNT, the Associated Press reported. That would make the blast possibly as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in World War II, which was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT, the news agency said. Although the United States and Asian countries said they had registered a seismic event, Russia said its monitoring services had detected a nuclear explosion, but no radiation.
The Economist:
In the near term, North Korea’s nuclear capabilities are more likely to pose a greater risk to North Koreans than to the neighbours. The country is reckoned to have reprocessed enough weapons-grade plutonium to make several bombs (it has also admitted to a programme for enriching uranium). The bombs, however, are fairly crude—in the underground test, the nuclear reaction was probably triggered by a large conventional charge. Such a bomb, in other words, is not easily transportable; North Korea is still some way from being able to miniaturise nuclear weapons to use on missiles or even to drop from planes. Unusual means of delivery, such as a shipping container, would be needed if North Korea’s were to be used in anger. So the immediate threats from North Korea’s new capability come from radioactive leaks into the atmosphere and North Korea’s groundwater.
The text of North Korea's announcement (Los Angeles Times).

Analysis and implications

Foreign Affairs addressed a world of small nuclear states in their autumn issue:
Actually, however, a postproliferation future is likely to be far more complex than either the pessimists or the optimists believe. In a multipolar nuclear world, international politics will continue but in an environment dominated by fear and uncertainty, with new dangers and new possibilities for miscommunication adding to and complicating familiar ones. As a result, many of the military plans, defense policies, and national security doctrines that officials in the United States and other countries now take for granted are likely to become obsolete and will need to be revised significantly.
Brookings, in July, addressed North Korea's brinksmanship:
When diplomacy is stalled, North Korea escalates tension to break the deadlock. The latest example is its missile tests on July 4. Firing a barrage of short-, medium-, and long-range test missiles on America's Independence Day is a rather unconventional way to seek dialogue, but the North Koreans have reasons to believe it will work.

In 1994, when its nuclear negotiations with the U.S. hit a snag, North Korea threatened to reprocess plutonium. This pushed the Korean peninsula to the brink of war, but the two sides soon resumed the talks and signed the Geneva Agreed Framework. North Korea agreed to the phased dismantlement of its nuclear program in exchange for multilateral energy assistance and the normalization of relations with the U.S. In 1998, when U.S. concerns about North Korea's missile program and underground facilities at Kumchangri delayed the implementation of the Agreed Framework, North Korea launched a multi-stage rocket and shocked the world. This prompted an extensive review of the U.S. policy toward North Korea (known as the Perry Process), and led to a series of bilateral talks and meetings to speed up and broaden engagement, including negotiations to stop North Korea's missile development.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences, in 2003, addressed who was at fault for the end of the Agreed Framework:
Both sides would work together to replace North Korea's graphite-moderated reactors with light-water power plants (and the United States would help "replace" the energy from closing the old-style reactors by shipping heavy fuel oil to the North). North Korea did shut down the reactors, but balked from time to time at placing the spent fuel (the potential source of plutonium) in proper storage. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies delayed building the new reactors, breaking ground only in 1999--five years after the agreement was signed. Today, only some of the foundation has been laid.

The two sides would move toward normalization of relations. For nine years, the United States has failed to recognize North Korea diplomatically, although the Clinton administration was approaching that step when it left office in January 2001. Instead of continuing the diplomatic effort, the new president, George W. Bush, rejected South Korean President Kim Dae Jung's efforts to improve relations with the North, ended the U.S. diplomatic initiative, and eventually declared the North part of an "axis of evil."

Both sides would work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. The North pledged to remain a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to abide by an additional agreement with South Korea. The agreement with the South prohibits both countries from possessing uranium enrichment facilities. Last October, the North seemed to confirm that it was in breach of the agreement when it responded to U.S. allegations that it had a clandestine enrichment program by arguing that it had a right to develop nuclear weapons. On January 10, 2003, Pyongyang announced its withdrawal from the NPT


Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

The “Axis of Evil” always was a cartoonish assortment of “Asian” paper-tiger villains with Semitic and/or Mongoloid traits, ideal for Tony Snow’s fearsome reports on Faux News and/or the White House lawn.

Now the soviet-style gnome of Pingpongrad has gone “Nukular” all the way!

Truly, (corrupt political) life imitates (particularly bad) art…

4:14 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

I wondered how long it would take for someone to blame North Korea's nukes on Bush. It seems The Bulletin of Atomic Scientests beat everybody to the draw and started in 2003.

I think we are going to see some serious stuff happening as a result of the NK test. If the UN imposes Class 7 sanctions I don't think it will make much difference but South Korea stops sending food I think Kim Jong Il will launch some kind of military action.

North Koreans are already starving and if SK cuts them off Il has to do something to keep the North Koreans in line. I think if SK cuts food aid we will see some type of military action within 2 months.

4:23 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Food aide has been "suspended" or "delayed"

4:25 PM  

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