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A passenger walks past a television report on North Korea's nuclear test at a railway station in Seoul

North Korea conducted its third test of a nuclear weapon today. The act was condemned by China, Japan, Russia, and the United States:

(Reuters) – North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday in defiance of existing U.N. resolutions, drawing condemnation from around the world, including from its only major ally, China, which summoned the North Korean ambassador to protest.

The reclusive North said the test was an act of self-defense against “U.S. hostility” and threatened further, stronger steps if necessary.

It said the test had “greater explosive force” than the 2006 and 2009 tests. Its KCNA news agency said it had used a “miniaturized” and lighter nuclear device, indicating that it had again used plutonium which is more suitable for use as a missile warhead.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to rule the country, has presided over two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear test during his first year in power, pursuing policies that have propelled his impoverished and malnourished country closer to becoming a nuclear weapons power.

The young Kim is undoubtedly signaling continuity with the policies of the previous two generations of his family. The test is an embarrassment to China, illustrating how little influence they actually have over what should effectively be a vassal state.

The United Nations Security Council will meet today to determine what its response will be. My guess is not much. Sanctions against the Kim regime are already about as severe as will be accepted by Security Council permanent member China. The test also exacerbates the already tense situation in East Asia.

President Obama has termed the North Korean nuclear program “a threat to U. S. national security”. There are only a handful of responses at hand. We could knuckle under to what the Kim regime wants, something unlikely to induce it to abandon its nuclear program. We could remove the Kim regime, something unlikely to be acceptable to just about anybody, especially China which could expect a flood of refugees across its border, something it very much wants to avoid. Or we could issue some outraged statements and otherwise ignore North Korea, hoping the situation will just go away.

The third is probably the best of the available alternatives. Unfortunately, as I’ve said before North Korea remains the Alex Forrest of nations.

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About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging.

Comments

  1. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    It’s a sad world when the possibility of North Korea becoming a slave state to China would actually be an improvement. But that might be the best possible solution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  2. michael reynolds says:

    It’s been the policy of our government from Mr. Bush to the current president that a nuclear NK is unacceptable. Similarly it is my policy that the fog I see out of my window is unacceptable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Obviously Kim 3.0 and the Gang didn’t get the memo about the “reset” of U.S. global diplomacy and the ensuing utopia that would fall from the clear blue skies.

    That aside, the Norks setting off nukes again is connected to a crucial item over which such a high percentage of the chattering classes have been and still are clueless and loopy.

    China is the 800 pound gorilla of Asia and the Pacific Rim. We owe China over a trillion dollars. Ergo we have little to no leverage over China. If anything they have serious leverage over us. Not good.

    Owing money is a bitch. Having the de facto geopolitical influence of a banana republic because you owe more than a trillion dollars to a frenemy is a real bitch. When said frenemy is the key player in a region with a lot of cross-border hatred, and old memories that don’t fade away, and where one such player is a nuclear power run by an idiot savant scion of madmen, and who still should be in college no less, then you’ve got a severe problem with limited to no solutions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  4. What a bunch of dummies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Mike says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: We are China’s largest customer. I’d say we have a bit of leverage over them as well.

    With that said, it is sad the NK spends all that money on nuclear tests while its people starve. Then again, we spent quite a chunk of change in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Obviously Kim 3.0 and the Gang didn’t get the memo

    Maybe not, but Kim 3.0 certainly learned the lesson of Bush 2.0 that “non-nuclear armed states are subject to invasion”. Something the Iranians seem to have learned as well.

    We owe China over a trillion dollars. Ergo we have little to no leverage over China. If anything they have serious leverage over us. Not good.

    How so? Just exactly what, pray tell, could the Chinese do to us that would not be the equivalent of slitting their own throats? To whom exactly would they turn to, to sell the crap they make? Europe? They’re in a recession if you haven’t noticed. Latin America? How much disposable income is there available down there? Africa????

    The Chinese need us just as much as we need them. In some respects, even more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  7. Franklin says:

    While I disagree with most of what Tsar says, the use of frenemy regarding China is somewhat apt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. This is going to sound like something out of an 80s era movie, but hear me out: the best thing we can continue to do is show those people what they’re missing. Keep having South Korean pop culture filter over the border. Keep having Western values leak in. It’s a slow trickle, but they’re going to have to take their government back. We can’t do it for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  9. stonetools says:

    I’m sure that Benghazigate is far more important than North Korean nuclear tests. Also too, dronez!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @stonetools:

    Keep having South Korean pop culture filter over the border.

    So you’re advocating a revolution…Gangnam style!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  11. bernieyeball says:

    @michael reynolds: Similarly it is my policy that the fog I see out of my window is unacceptable.

    At least Tony Bennett could sing an excellent tune about the fog…

    “The morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryF9p-nqsWw

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Jr says:

    North Korea’s trolling got tiresome 10 years ago.

    China needs to get their shit together and deal with this fools.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. JKB says:

    Nukes are going to keep spreading in Asia. The next few decades will not be good times to be living in dense urban, i.e., target, areas. Although, the first uses will probably be against near neighbors and the mega-cities in Asia to settle old scores as the Asian militaries start looking outward.

    To bad the US is stepping back from being the stabilizing for force in the world. But as the Progs are oft to say, we are evil and shouldn’t impose our old white male values on the world. Lead from behind and all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 15

  14. James in LA says:

    @JKB: “Lead from behind and all.”

    What countries do you suggest America invade/bomb/drone to impose your version of what you think American policy ought to be? And if you do not intend a military response, are you sure you will not be labeled limp-wristed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. Commonist says:

    They’ve been emboldened by Obama’s appeasing refusal to bomb and waterboard enough Arabs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. Mike says:
  17. Franklin says:

    @JKB: Wow you are confused about A) in what ways we are a stabilizing force in the world (clue: it has nothing to do with bombing people back to the stone age), and B) what progressives actually say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Franklin says:

    @Mike: Hmm, they’re both slightly chubby and Korean, but I honestly don’t see any similarities in the face.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Rob in CT says:

    North Korea’s trolling got tiresome 10 years ago.

    This.

    NK is one of the longest running examples of “LOOK AT ME!!!!” in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. James Joyner says:

    Given the incentives for doing so, it’s next to impossible to prevent a determined state actor from acquiring seven-decade-old technology. So, we pretty much groan and moan until it happens and then live with it once it does.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    Nukes are going to keep spreading in Asia. The next few decades will not be good times to be living in dense urban, i.e., target, areas. Although, the first uses will probably be against near neighbors and the mega-cities in Asia to settle old scores as the Asian militaries start looking outward.

    To bad the US is stepping back from being the stabilizing for force in the world. But as the Progs are oft to say, we are evil and shouldn’t impose our old white male values on the world. Lead from behind and all.

    YEAH! Not like Obama is shifting the focus of US foreign policy to Asia or anything!

    JKB… If you had even an ounce of self awareness, you would not be the caricature you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Given the incentives for doing so, it’s next to impossible to prevent a determined state actor from acquiring seven-decade-old technology. So, we pretty much groan and moan until it happens and then live with it once it does.

    And the world just keeps turning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure though that we can live with NK marrying nukes to a reliable launch vehicle. I’ve been as reluctant as any rational person to call for military action against NK. But Kim Jong Un with a deliverable nuke? That’s rather dangerous – not just to us or even primarily to us, but to South Korea, Japan and China itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. wr says:

    @Rob in CT: “NK is one of the longest running examples of “LOOK AT ME!!!!” in the world. ”

    Well, NK and JT…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    The Chinese need us just as much as we need them. In some respects, even more.

    Indeed. I’m quite certain the people who run China are very sensitive to what might happen should the U. S. decide to tweak a few tariffs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Ron Beasley says:

    @James Joyner: True James but in the case NK still disturbing as I don’t see them as rational players. Pakistan is also a concern because of the possibility of irrational players getting control. I have less concern about Iran as I believe the Mullahs are rational players.
    In the end it has to be China that deals with NK.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  27. Blue Shark says:

    Phew!

    …It just got a bit warmer here in Hawai`i.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    I don’t see them as rational players.

    How so? They keep jerking our chains and we keep letting them and sending them food aid etc. Sounds rational to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Longer than that, Michael. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been a stated foreign policy goal of the United States since Bush I, at least. Translated that means North Korea’s possessing nuclear weapons has been seen as unacceptable at least since then..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Dave Schuler: Translated that means North Korea’s possessing nuclear weapons has been seen as unacceptable acceptable at least since then..

    FTFY…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mikey: We won’t. we need them too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m not thrilled with the concept, to be sure. But the list of people who’ve had that capacity include Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, and the people in charge of Pakistan. I’m not sure that Kim’s any worse; indeed, I’m pretty sure he’s not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Crusty Dem says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Yes, a trillion American dollars. Wherever could we find those? I mean, other than printing them any damn time we want. I’m not arguing that its consequence-free, but we actually could pull the trillion dollar coin gambit with China. Because their options in such a situation are nil…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    Stalin and Mao were evil b*stards, sure enough. But were they as unstable as the North Korean regime? I don’t know. The Kims are a dynasty, the equivalent of a royal family with elements of godhood. I wonder what the world would look like to Kim Jong Un perhaps feeling his regime toppling.

    As for Pakistan, I think it was a terrible mistake on our part to let them develop nukes. We may be very sorry for that some day. I’ll take Iran over Pakistan as a nuclear power. Iran/Persia has a long, long history, and I suspect that context would help them to avoid the final act of suicide. That’s not true of NK or Pakistan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  35. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Dave Schuler: Longer than that, Michael. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been a stated foreign policy goal of the United States since Bush I, at least. Translated that means North Korea’s possessing nuclear weapons has been seen as unacceptable at least since then..

    North Korea has nuclear weapons, and we’ve done nothing to change that fact. That is de facto acceptance.

    Bold, firm declarations mean nothing when they are not backed up by action when challenged.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idiotian #13:

    Bold, firm declarations mean nothing when they are not backed up by action when challenged.

    OK. You are president for the day. Just exactly what actions are you going to take?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. @OzarkHillbilly:
    *crickets*

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0