Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea tests a nuclear weapon

North Korea just announced that it tested a nuclear weapon. There appear to be enough independent sources of confirmation that one can conclude that there has indeed been a nuclear test.

I for one expected North Korea to keep on bluffing in order to gain concessions but not actually test the weapon. It appears I was quite wrong.

In certain circumstances, nuclear weapons can provide a stabilizing role. If two belligerent parties both possess sufficient quantities of nuclear weapons to create a situation of mutually assured destruction, the existence of nuclear weapons can actually lessen conflict in general, because the costs of conflict are so high that all parties will attempt to avoid a potentially escalating conflict at any cost (see U.S.-Soviet relations in the 60s, 70s, and 80s for an example of this).

Unfortunately, those conditions don't apply here. Kim Jong-il isn't exactly known for being the most rational of world leaders; rather, he's known for being a reckless party animal who likes American movies.

So maybe North Korea will try to use this as another bargaining chip for further concessions. Unfortunately, it could be much worse; this will go a long ways towards giving North Korea the ability to act with complete impunity.

Prior to this announcment of NK's nuclear capability, if worst came to worst, and North Korea did something so aggregious that a U.S./SK military response was required, North Korea could begin shelling Seoul and other nearby border cities, but the damage could be limited by an all-out American air attack.

With one or more nuclear weapons, however, Kim Jong-Il can be much more dangerous. Any attempted attack on North Korea would make Kim feel like a rat in a cage, and, as people often get when cornered, he might grasp at whatever straws he has. Unfortunately, those straws now include the possibility of completely wiping out Seoul, Pusan, and, if he really feels threatened, even Tokyo.

Of course, this is the worst case scenario, which is (thankfully) unlikely to happen. But what it does mean is that it's going to awfully hard to control North Korea if it does decide to undertake a certain course of actions that the global community doesn't like. Economic sanctions haven't worked, as North Korea is perhaps the most isolated nation on the globe, and there are very few additional measures that could be taken (short of China cutting off aid) that would really give the world community leverage over it.

Now, knowing that military options are even further off the table than they were before, North Korea may be emboldened to act as it sees fit.

It's going to be an interesting few weeks...


Blogger The Strong Conservative said...

The small glimmer of hope that we may have is that North Korea probably doesn't have the means to deliver a weapon, yet.

Its very likely that the device detonated was a bulky, primitive, nuclear weapon that wouldnt fit on their missiles (Nodong 1 or 2) and certainly would not be deliverable by aircraft.

I think the greater danger is the potential sale of radioactive material to terrorists or other "rogue" states that could be used in a dirty bomb against a western target.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Anonymous Liberal said...

You're quite right about that. From what I understand, the weapon detonated today was detonated using conventional explosives, and that it's in a form that's too large for the payload of all their missiles.

I agree with you that, at the moment, the largest worry is about the transfer of nuclear materials. But once you have a functioning bomb, and given NK's relatively advanced missile technology (i.e. the Taepodong series), there could be more problems in the very near future.

10:35 AM  
Blogger EX-NDIP said...

We must take this opportunity to thank Bill Clinton for his assistance to North Korea during the 90's. Clinton donated 4 billion US to the NK Regeme along with 2 nuclear reactors . . . this Liberal Appeasement of course had nothin to do with them detonating a nuclear device today . . . right!!!

They have launched missiles that have gone over Japan . . . hopefully the Chinese will deal with this lunatic as he is on their doorstep.

10:45 AM  

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