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.