From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:
By Evan Ramstad
SEOUL—The U.S., China and other nations condemned North Korea’s explosion of a nuclear device on Tuesday, but Pyongyang showed no sign that withering international criticism would blunt its determination to advance its weapons program.
After three weeks of warnings and bombastic buildup, North Korea exploded the device—its third test in a weapons program that dates back to the 1960s—shortly before noon local time inside the same mountain it used to detonate its previous nuclear explosives in 2006 and 2009.
With the blast, North Korea presented the Obama administration and a new group of leaders in South Korea, China and Japan the same challenge that it has posed to their predecessors for decades: how to handle a regime that has put its own survival and military strength ahead of the wealth and health of its people.
North Korea followed the same pattern before Tuesday’s test that it did in the past, engaging first in the firing of long-range rockets in recent months that drew international criticism and United Nations penalties, then using those penalties as justification for undertaking the more provocative step of a nuclear explosion.
More at the link.
The international reaction was just what the North Korean leadership expected, and probably wanted: they got attention paid to them. I don’t know if Kim Jong-un and the rest of the leadership operates under the any-publicity-is-good-publicity idea, though it often seems like it.
But three facts come to your Editor’s mind:
- The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has very few resources, and just blew up a bunch of them;
- The waste of the resources used to build the bomb and run the test took resources away from other things the DPRK could have done; and
- The fissile material the DPRK used is now fissile material they no longer have.
The North Korean leadership have been rattling their sabres for years and years now, because that’s really all that they have. Their production is pathetic, and they can’t even feed their people, so, they puff out heir collective chests to show everybody how manly and tough they are. Their reward is when other nations regard them as manly and tough, and that’s just the kind of reaction they are getting from the United States, the United Nations, and others.
But the question has to be asked: just what good are nuclear weapons for North Korea? They have only two directions in which they can go with their huge army, north, into China, or south, into the Republic of Korea, and both would be virtual suicide: they have no reason to cross the Yalu into China, and a move south would involve the United States. It’s entirely possible that they view President Obama’s leadership as so weak that the US wouldn’t resist an invasion of the south, but that’s one heck of an assumption.
One of the greater risks the United States has seen is the possible transfer of DPRK nuclear weapons or fissile material to terrorist groups with more capability of attacking the United States, but every nuclear test they make reduces their stockpile of fissile material available for such a venture. It will cost them time and treasure to produce more to replace what has just gone up in smoke.
Thus, your Editor doesn’t see the nuclear test as a necessarily bad thing: it has made North Korea weaker, not stronger. The appropriate reaction now should be, big deal, you blew up a hole in the ground. But you aren’t getting anything from us to reward you for your behavior; we will not give you any food or other aid, we will give you nothing, and your poor people can continue to live on grass and acorns.