North Korea carries out nuclear test, October 2006
While media and US attention appeared to be on Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea carried out a nuclear test, the first week of October, 2006. Unlike most other countries that had done nuclear tests, North Korea warned the world six days earlier that a test was imminent.
At first, there was skepticism that it was a nuclear device, but a few days later, the US confirmed the nuclear explosion. It was one-tenth the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 19457, with less than a kiloton in yield, US officials said.
Another BBC article notes that North Korea is thought not to have any bombs small enough to put in a missile8, and although they could try dropping one from a plane, the world is watching closely and that nuclear capabilities do not necessarily imply a fully-fledged nuclear bomb, or a warhead that it can be delivered to a target.
In the past, North Korea has tested ballistic missile delivery, once over Japan, too. Their range appears to be limited for the moment, while their capabilities may not be developed to intercontinental extent, countries in the region are nervous.
Around the world, there was condemnation of North Korea’s nuclear test.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun feared the move could
spark a nuclear arms build-up in other countries the same BBC article noted. Japan pledged that it will not develop nuclear weapons because of continued reassurance of the bilateral alliance with US.
As the BBC also added, both China—North Korea’s closest ally—and South Korea, while critical of North Korea’s actions, were against the idea of a military response, even though both nations have put their troops on a higher state of alert. They, and Russia, favored some form of sanctions via the UN.
Investigative journalist, Tim Shorrock, notes an interesting analysis by Shen Dingli, whom he describes as
one of China’s most astute political analysts, whereby China may see North Korea as a nuisance, but necessary ally, to protect its southern flank from possible US aggression9.
The US, meanwhile, stated they would never rule out the use of force, though would pursue a diplomatic solution, too. The sanctions that the US wanted were those that would fall under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which would be mandatory and ultimately enforceable by military means. President George Bush warned North Korea of grave consequences if it gives nuclear-related technology to any state or non-state actor.
The BBC claimed that Iran
has voiced support for North Korea but did not elaborate. The BBC may be saying that Iran support’s North Korea against any calls for sanctions, because Iran condemned North Korea’s nuclear test10.
The UN Security Council did vote on sanctions against North Korea, (who ridulously claimed it an act of war). The sanctions do not automatically mean military action if there is failure to comply. Instead, another resolution would be needed for that. The sanctions do ban military exports to North Korea, as well as sales of nuclear technology, and bans the sales of luxury goods. Finance freezes, travel bans, of key personnel involved in nuclear related activities and inspections of cargo is also part of the resolution.
North Korea has also sent out mixed messages about the possibility of a second test. It might not be too unexpected, as disappointing and concerning as it would be, because from North Korea’s perspective, a second test might send a message to others that it is serious, and it may serve to act as a deterrant to anyone wishing to take them on.
Inter Press Service (IPS) notes the observation of Alan Romberg, a Korea specialist at the Henry L. Stimson Centre, that the US being against negotiations, helped push North Korea into performing this test11.
Given the administration’s past rejection of Chinese and South Korean appeals to engage Pyongyang, Romberg was quoted as saying,
the likelihood is that there won’t be progress (in negotiations) between now and the end of the Bush administration … the North’s decision to test was importantly based on that calculation.
The same IPS article notes that many in the Bush administration are against direct negotiations with North Korea, instead hoping to squeeze it until the regime collapses. The US has already managed to stifle North Korea’s ability to access much of the global banking system. US policy of squeezing it may be working and the nuclear test may have therefore been an act of desperation.
Another IPS expands on this describing how various prominent neo-conservative hawks in the US are urging even the nuclearlization of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, and punishing China12 (whom they think has considerable influence over North Korea). They also reject the idea of talks with North Korea, and suggest that talks between various key nations must be
resisted by the United States, for military means are the only way, they feel. Some have also called for sabotage, espionage, information operations, subversion, and deception against the paranoid dictatorship.
Whether the US will have the ability (politically or militarily) to really consider a full scale military operation is questionable at the moment.
Chinese Political Analyst, Dingli, mentioned above, detailed five reasons why he feels North Korea will believe the US will not attack it13:
- The nuclear deterrent effect;
- The deterrent effect of the North Korean conventional forces;
- The opposition of South Korea and Japan, the allies of the United States;
- The opposition of China, Russia, and other countries;
- The restraining effect on the United States due to the Iraq situation, the Iranian nuclear challenge, and the chaotic situation surrounding Lebanon and Israel.
Dingli also commented that to some extent, China is constrained in what influence it has over North Korea, as there is a