North Korea Conducts Nuclear Test

South Korean and Russian scientists have confirmed that North Korea has conducted an underground test of a nuclear weapon:

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test on Monday, heightening tension in the economic powerhouse of East Asia and prompting U.N. Security Council members to call an emergency meeting.

Russia said the nuclear test was about equal in power to the atom bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in 1945 at the end of World War Two.

The test sparked condemnation from the international community, which has lurched from promises of massive aid to tough economic sanctions to try to stop the hermit state’s efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.

“(North Korea) successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way,” its official KCNA news agency said.

The country’s first test in October 2006 was considered to have been relatively weak, about 1 kilotonne, suggesting design problems. Russia’s military said the latest test had a force of about 20 kilotonnes.

Analysts said North Korea will want the test to raise its leverage in any negotiations with the United States.

President Obama has issued a statement on the test:

By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community. North Korea’s behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in Northeast Asia. Such provocations will only serve to deepen North Korea’s isolation. It will not find international acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants action by the international community. We have been and will continue working with our allies and partners in the Six-Party Talks as well as other members of the U.N. Security Council in the days ahead.

All of North Korea’s neighbors, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and China, have issued their own statements condemning North Korea’s actions. Japan’s Prime Minister has called for new measures against North Korea, presumably by toughening sanctions.

It’s possible to look at North Korea’s test as a positive thing. North Korea is believed to possess a limited amount of fissible material; the more they test, the less they have. However, the regime for preventing the country from obtaining additional material isn’t perfect and the technology itself is valuable. In that light the intimate connection between North Korea’s and Iran’s weapons development programs should give us pause.

China continues to be the dog in the manger for effective steps against North Korea. As long as China is willing to prop up the North Korean regime, the regime will continue and China is likely to continue as long as its leaders see support for the North Korean regime as in their interests. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if China punishes North Korea in some public albeit temporary way in the next few days.

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Dave Schuler
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. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Eric Florack says:

    All of North Korea’s neighbors, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and China, have issued their own statements condemning North Korea’s actions.

    At issue now, it is whether or not a meeting will be held for the purpose of issuing a strongly worded memo, so that all of the leaderships of the various neighbor countries and the United States can all point to the fact that they have “done something” about the problem.

  2. JKB says:

    It will be interesting to see who takes up the world security leader roll and moves to contain this. I think we can be certain that the current administration will not act decisively so someone else will have to. Sure, we’ll have a strongly worded UN resolution but that hasn’t ever worked for France or the hundreds of other harpies at the UN. Maybe China, maybe India, maybe Russia or a resurgent Japan. One thing is for sure, there’ll be a new sheriff in town and his name is not Barack Obama.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    One thing is for sure, there’ll be a new sheriff in town and his name is not Barack Obama.

    Awwww…do you miss Sheriff Bush…

  4. Eric Florack says:

    Awwww…do you miss Sheriff Bush…

    If this thing keeps moving on it’s current track, I suspect you might, assuming of course, that you’re alive to do so.

  5. Grewgills says:

    assuming of course, that you’re alive to do so

    Oh no, the North Koreans are going to kill us all, assuming the Muslims don’t get us first!

  6. The Strategic MC says:

    The truth of the matter is that this is South Korea’s problem to solve, with China in a supporting role. The national interests of both require a continuation of the status quo.

    South Korea, out of fear of N.K. retaliation, has repeatedly vetoed a U.S. strike on the NORK nuke facilities. They are also terrified by the economic costs of N.K. dissolution and eventual Korean unification.

    China, who underwrites much of what passes for a N.K. economy, fears massive refugee flows from a failed N.K. and the unified Korea which would result. Also, they want to prevent both Japan and S.K. from attaining the bomb.

    The only problem is how does Obama do the pivot and tell everyone that this requires a multi-lateral solution that doesn’t have the U.S. playing a leading role? Can’t wait to hear what Albright, Sherman and Berger have to say about that.

    After all, “everyone” knows that the NORK nuke problem was created by Bush. Who knew that this was not for the U.S. to fix?

  7. Eric Florack says:

    Oh no, the North Koreans are going to kill us all, assuming the Muslims don’t get us first!

    As I recll from what the anti-war left has taught us, it only takes one of nuke to screw up your gold date.

    Oh, wait… these are communists we’re talking about. What am I thinking? They’re OK. Never mind. My bad.

  8. The Strategic MC says:

    Yep, the anti-war left is fiercely anti-nuke and strongly in favor of non-enforceable non-proliferation agreements.

    Actually doing something about rogue nuke powers and weapons proliferators, not so much. The utility of “Blame Bush” is rapidly fading.

  9. steve says:

    Bush was not able to do much about N. Korea and Obama won’t be able to do much either (laying aside the bombing fantasies of the few). This really is at China’s back door. S. Korea and japan have to decide what they want also. It’s actually about time for S.Korea to stand up and provide its own protection.

    Steve

  10. Grewgills says:

    As I recll from what the anti-war left has taught us, it only takes one of nuke to screw up your gold date.

    But that one needs to make it to your general vicinity. I don’t live there right now, but HI is my home and that is where most of my friends and family live. If either of us had any thing to worry about as far as NORK nukes go it would be me. Do you really think that either of us is or will be in any serious danger from NORK nukes?
    NORK getting a working and deliverable nuke would be troubling for a number of reasons, my (or your) personal safety is nowhere near the top of that list.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Oh, wait… these are communists we’re talking about. What am I thinking? They’re OK. Never mind. My bad.

    Well, from the amount of time Bush spent kissing the asses of the communist Chinese, one would assume so.

  12. The Strategic MC says:

    “Do you really think that either of us is or will be in any serious danger from NORK nukes?”

    It all depends upon the capabilities of their delivery systems, doesn’t it? It’s only a matter of time before they “fix” the Taepo Dong 2/X. Full ICBM capability in the near future?; I wouldn’t be surprised.

    In order to avoid the hard choices, we have bet against N.K. breaking the technological “code” for about 15 years now. I think that we are losing/have lost that bet.

    We’ve also placed the same bets against Iran.

  13. Andy says:

    The fact of the matter is that there isn’t much the US can do, regardless of who sits in the Oval office. More sanctions? What’s left besides a few necessities that might cause a North Korean collapse, which is something neither China or South Korea want to see happen.

  14. The Strategic MC says:

    “The fact of the matter is that there isn’t much the US can do, regardless of who sits in the Oval office.”

    Agreed, with the following caveats: Leave the negotiations, and refuse to deal with N.K. Leave it to the PRC and S.K. to “fix” their problem, as neither one has liked our ideas on the subject.

    Also, forward deploy as much BMD capability to East Asia as possible (i.e., Patriots in Japan and AEGIS sea-based systems). THAADs in Alaska and Hawaii are a must.

    Obama needs to abandon his anti-BMD ideological posturing and do what needs to be done.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    If this thing keeps moving on it’s current track, I suspect you might, assuming of course, that you’re alive to do so.

    It’s so nice to see delusional comments that read like they came from someone in a Star Wars movie…and not even the better earlier ones, but the horrible latter ones…

    After all, “everyone” knows that the NORK nuke problem was created by Bush.

    Really? And who among us constitutes “everyone”? And, umm, would anyone care to provide any evidence that BMD technology actually works…

  16. Strategic MC says:

    I threw “everyone” out there to see who would take the bait; I knew that there were fish in this lake.

    As for evidence that BMD works, well, how much do you want to know?

    Successful kill-vehicle trials against both launch vehicle and warhead simulators and, while not the most technologically challenging, the shoot-down of a satellite. The MIRV decoy discernment problem is the biggest challenge, but we’re almost on top of this one. BTW, you avoid MIRV intercept problems by making your kills in the boost and/or exo-atmospheric (pre-apogee) phase of flight. BTW, since when is 100% reliability the standard for anything, especially when you have nothing better?

    Opponents of BMD are on shaky ground attacking it’s technical merits, but can’t resist making fact-free assertions about “unproven” technologies.

    Time for a better ideological fig leaf.

  17. Eric Florack says:

    “Do you really think that either of us is or will be in any serious danger from NORK nukes?”

    Do you really consider yourself that isolated, that a nuke attack elsewhere in the world will leave you and yours unaffected?

  18. An Interested Party says:

    I knew that there were fish in this lake.

    Well, I await these fish…

    As for BMD, I am agnostic on the issue so I will happily look at verifiable evidence that it works…

    Do you really consider yourself that isolated, that a nuke attack elsewhere in the world will leave you and yours unaffected?

    So, if the point isn’t that North Korea isn’t waiting to have the technology to strike us directly, why have they not yet used the nukes they already have? What are they waiting for…

  19. The Strategic MC says:

    “…(W)hy have they not yet used the nukes they already have? What are they waiting for…”

    The value in having nukes is not having to use them; the tacit threat of their being used. Great deterrence against conventional regime change operations.

    My fear of a nuclear armed N.K. is that, if conventionally attacked, they will not go down with rounds left in the magazine. One of these “rounds” could be a multi-stage Taepo Dong 2/X ICBM variant.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    The value in having nukes is not having to use them; the tacit threat of their being used. Great deterrence against conventional regime change operations.

    I’m well aware of that…I was trying to find out who thinks we have to worry about a nuclear attack somewhere in the world outside of any government actually trying to invade North Korea…

  21. Dave Schuler says:

    I was trying to find out who thinks we have to worry about a nuclear attack somewhere in the world outside of any government actually trying to invade North Korea…

    The complication is that the North Korean regime has a history of being quite mercurial. At any given moment what will they construe as an invasion? An airliner straying into air space they think is there, reasonably or unreasonably? A ship too close? Who knows?

  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    Oh no, the North Koreans are going to kill us all, assuming the Muslims don’t get us first!

    lol, or if the liberals economics don’t get us first or the laws the go with em.

    Grass soup anyone?

  23. G.A.Phillips says:

    Is it not time for us to free these slaves also, crap at least there is a good chance that they won’t return to Islam if we do.

    Awwww…do you miss Sheriff Bush…

    lol, with the Donkeysheep we got running things now I even miss Sheriff Buba, at least he threatened to wipe N.K. off the map once.

  24. ggr says:

    I’m not sure that Obama is doing anything significantly different than Bush did. There is in fact very little a US President can do about North Korea.

  25. Eric Florack says:

    I’m not sure that Obama is doing anything significantly different than Bush did.

    Maybe, but that begs the question, what caused the recent upswing in activity there, since Obama taking the oath?

  26. Grewgills says:

    Do you really consider yourself that isolated, that a nuke attack elsewhere in the world will leave you and yours unaffected?

    No, but I do feel isolated enough that it wouldn’t leave me dead, which if you remember was your initial comment.

  27. Grewgills says:

    but that begs the question

    I understand this does not advances the current discussion but…

    Begging the question (or petitio principii) is a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premises.

    Beg the question does not mean asks the question.

  28. Eric Florack says:

    Grew, perhaps your biggest problems here involve your preconceptions about what I mean.

  29. Grewgills says:

    Grew, perhaps your biggest problems here involve your preconceptions about what I mean.

    Please enlighten me then. How was,

    assuming of course, that you’re alive to do so.

    supposed to be interpreted?

  30. Eric Florack says:

    Please enlighten me then

    Had it not occurred to you that a nuke strike, even assuming limited range on the initial attack, invites response from better equipped countries, some of which end up getting aimed at US? Can you predict all outcomes when world war is happening?

  31. An Interested Party says:

    Oh great, so WW III is about to start? Forget references to “24”, we’ve now entered Austin Powers territory…everyone, prepare your fallout shelters…

  32. Grewgills says:

    Had it not occurred to you that a nuke strike, even assuming limited range on the initial attack, invites response from better equipped countries, some of which end up getting aimed at US?

    Please lay out your scenario that begins with a NORK strike at a neighbor and ends with some better equipped country nuking us?