The North Korean Nuke Test: It’s a Dessert Topping and a Floor Wax!

Any number of theories have been advanced for why the North Koreans elected to test a nuclear weapon yesterday. There’s no particular reason for the test to have been conducted for any one reason. It may well have been conducted for domestic political reasons as well as having had the effect of raising the stakes in future negotiations. The South Korean daily, Daily North Korea which specializes in trying to puzzle out the conduct of the North, made just that point (hat tip: The Moderate Voice).

To those explanations the Daily adds a desire to put South Korea off-balance:

Third, Kim Jong-il wants to see social conflict in South Korea. Beyond his standard North Korean negotiating strategy of “taming” his southern adversary, he may even embark on a plan to “kill” President Lee Myung Bak. At this moment, during the period of mourning for former President Roh Moo Hyun [committed suicide this past weekend], Kim may see this as a moment of weakness for the Lee Administration. Through this nuclear test, he may be pushing the South to resume some form of engagement policy.

I’ll add another speculation of my own which in addition to explaining the reason for the nuclear test proposes a reason for the short-range missiles which were tested shortly after the detonation. It may have been a demonstration of capabilities for prospective customers.

However, I think we should keep in mind that North Korea’s nuclear test was conducted to move their nuclear weapons development program along and for domestic political reasons and raise the stakes in negotiations with the United States and to stir the pot, not just in South Korea but generally. That certainly seems to have worked.

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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.


  1. BigFire says:

    The news have been screaming about a Hiroshima scale detonation (17KT). However, this particular test appears to be another sub 6kT yield, which makes it slightly bigger than USAF’s MOAB. If they’re using AQ Khan’s design they should’ve expected higher yield.

  2. DC Loser says:

    BigFire – I think you need to check your math. The MOAB is 18,700 lbs, making it 9.35 tons. In contrast, 6kT is 6,000 tons. Big difference.

  3. Brett says:

    I figured it was basically a combination of “Don’t you dare try to screw with us!” (since the Nork government is pretty paranoid) and “We demand more for giving it up!” (meaning more aid, upfront, even before serious negotiations begin).