North Korea joins the nuclear club
North Korea has successfully tested its first nuclear weapon. The Korean Central News Agency, the mouthpiece of the regime, has reported the test took place. “The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to the our military and people,” KCNA said. ““It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation,” according to a translation of a KCNA statement.
South Korea has confirmed detonation. “The government has received a report that there was a tremor of 3.58 magnitude sensed from North Korea’s northern Hamkyong province at 10:36 am (0136 GMT).” The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the seismic event at 4.2 magnitude. The test location was the P’unggye-yok site.
The South Korean government has convened a high level emergency cabinet meeting. The “Sunshine Policy” between the South and North is officially dead, as are the six party talks between North Korea, South Korean, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan. The South Korean stock market “took a beating” on the news of the nuclear test. South Korea has suspended a shipment of aid to North Korea.
The P’unggye-yok nuclear test site. Click map to view. See analysis from Nick Grace at Global Crisis Watch for more details on P’unggye-yok
The North Korean nuclear detonation shines a light on the international proliferation of nuclear technology, equipment and know-how. A.Q. Khan, the infamous Pakistani nuclear scientist, was instrumental in establishing North Korea’s nuclear program. “A.Q. Khan’s network provided North Korea with both centrifuge designs and a small number of actual, complete centrifuges, in addition to a list of components needed to manufacture additional ones,” according to Global Security. Khan has also assisted with Iran’s mature nuclear program and al Qaeda’s nascent nuclear program.
North Korea and Iran have also cooperated on missile delivery systems. North Korean Taep’o-dong-1 and No-dong missiles have been converted into Iranian Shahab variants. The Iranian and North Korean governments are working to build a missile to deliver a nuclear warhead. “Iran is watching how the international community is going to react to North Korea,” said B Raman, the former head of Indian intelligence on Sunday’s broadcast of Global Crisis Watch, “And indeed we are finding Iran is thinking that the world situation now is such that the international community cannot act against it.”
The United States has recently deployed the USS Shiloh, an AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense platform, to the region. “By the end of this year, the Navy will have six Aegis-equipped ships capable of shooting down ballistic missiles and 12 more that can assist by providing precision tracking of such threats,” reports the Union Tribune. The AEGIS system has successfully shot down ballistic missiles during tests.
The implications for North Asia and beyond are dire. Not only will the armed forces of Japan and South Korea be placed on high alert, but these nations will be forced to seriously consider building their own nuclear deterrent. Defensive measure such as AEGIS cruisers may not be enough. The United States will be forced to devote additional diplomatic and military assets to deal with the threat, siphoning resources away form the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the looming crisis with Iran.
For additional information, see the transcript of the interview with Raman, the former head of Indian intelligence on Sunday’s broadcast of Global Crisis Watch:
From Global Crisis Watch, October 9, 2006:
Rich Lafayette: As we record to tape on Saturday, strong warnings have been issued to Pyongyang by Japan, the U.S. and the United Nations. Washington has also deployed aerial reconnaisance resources to the region in order to monitor radiation levels. And speculation is falling on October 8th, the 9th anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s ascension to power, and a day before the UN votes on Kofi Annan’s successor. How serious are the signs that Pyongyang will conduct an underground nuclear test?
B. Raman: There are two countries which are increasingly defiant of the international community on the nuclear issue. One is North Korea and the other is Iran. Iran is watching how the international community is going to react to North Korea. North Korea’s threat presently and if it carries out the nuclear test. So the international community has to make it clear to North Korea and that message has to go to Iran also through North Korea that there is a line which the international community will not allow anybody to cross. So the international community must be prepared for the possibility that North Korea is going to carry out a test and we must tailor our response and we must be ready with a basket of sanctions against North Korea. And the moment that it carries out that test those sanctions must be imposed so the message goes to North Korea as well as Iran. And once we take that first step what are the other options that are available for the international community we can discuss later. But if we defer and if we do not do anything immediately and if we go on discussing more and more with various groups and all, ultimately North Korea, Iran and Pakistan also – the Jihadi elements there – they are going to get the wrong message, thinking the international community is weak, the international community will not act against them. And indeed we are finding Iran is thinking that the world situation now is such that the international community cannot act against it. And North Korea is having the same idea. So these ideas have to be crushed, otherwise we are going to face more and more problems in the future. So the international community should not bicker on this issue.
Nick Grace: Indeed, it increasingly appears that the line may indeed be crossed but yet we’ve seen years and years of inaction and a lack of consensus in the international community both related to Iran and also North Korea. Has this lack of action and consensus, especially the United Nations, encouraged the development of nuclear weapons by both of these countries?
Raman: Yes, this lack of consensus but clearly the reluctance of Russia and the reluctance of China to act – they have been very reluctant on Iran – the EU has not been following a very energetic policy. The result is that Iran has gotten the wrong message. Also in the case of North Korea. So we must have a fallback position. There is a consensus that is ideal and sanctions should be imposed. The United States must have a fallback position as to what it could do – it should do – if there is no consensus. It should make it clear to Russia and China that even if they do not agree – if North Korea carries out its nuclear test – it’s going to react, it’s going to take the sanctions and these sanctions will only be the first step. The sanctions are not going to be the only step. It’s the first step to show how concerned it is. And then other steps would follow. This message has to across to other countries like China, Russia and the European Community. Otherwise, North Korea, Iran and now Pakistan, they are all playing on the possibility that there will be no consensus and in the absence of consensus the US will not be able to act and so they can take liberties with the international community. We must make clear to them that they cannot take liberties with the international community.
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