North Korea stages nuclear test

Discussion in 'Politics' started by dong20, May 25, 2009.

  1. dong20

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    "North Korea says it has has staged a "successful" underground nuclear test, prompting international condemnation.
    The state says it was more powerful than the previous one in October 2006.

    A number of external agencies have confirmed a powerful explosion took place, suspected to be associated with a nuclear test."

    BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | North Korea conducts nuclear test

    If confirmed, is NK putting its money where its mouth is ... or is this another desperate act from a dying regime ... or both ... or something else entirely?

    The usual 'threats' have ensued, talk of 'stern' action by Japan for example. Quite what said 'action' may entail was [as ever] left unsaid, and I expect, will remain unactioned.

    Anyway, it seems a new round in an ongoing game of brinksmanship has begun.

    Cue the usual pavolian responses from the usual suspects. For those among us who repeatedly demonstrate they're incapable of critical thinking - it's something to take your 'minds' off Nancy Pelosi's chest, and the wider campaign of 'fear' - consider it a service. :smile:

    For everyone else, this incident should come as no surprise, the difficulty lies in divining the underlying motivation, and an appropriate response, if indeed such a response exists.
     
    #1 dong20, May 25, 2009
    Last edited: May 25, 2009
  2. midlifebear

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    Having lived my entire life with the posture of North Korea threatening "world peace," I'm more concerned with the inherent dangers of a truck load of kim chi exploding somewhere in the world on a public street. Any food that is labeled in large red letters stating "Caution, contents may explode upon opening!" is worthy of serious attention.
     
  3. Jason

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    This is concerning. The North Koreans have a nuclear bomb and a missile with which to deliver it. They are governed by a mentally unstable crackpot backed up by other crackpots. There is a realistic chance of them using their bomb.

    As far as I can see we in the west have almost no leverage. Maybe Russia and China have some slight influence, though I guess there is little they can do. Maybe our diplomats can unpick the situation to work out what North Korea actually wants, so we can give it to them.
     
  4. B_VinylBoy

    B_VinylBoy New Member

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    Mad Libs is such a fun game, isn't it?
    I'm sure many people filled in the blank with AMERICA while we were under the Bush Administration.
     
  5. speshk

    speshk New Member

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    Apparently in matters nuclear, there's nothing to be done until something happens. All the ratchet-jawing, sanctions and threats amount to nothing. Nukes proliferate, the world waits. We know it will take a catastrophe to unite the world. It's a familiar pattern. Sit and wait. In other words, despite all our technological advances, we're still mostly paralyzed when it comes to shaping the future.

    What's called for is leadership.

    Was it Churchill who said history is biography?
     
  6. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Here's the problem...

    ... this test was not a dud, unlike the previous test.

    North Korea with a nuclear weapon may cause a regional nuclear arms race. Japan has all the capability to make a nuclear weapon and accurately deliver it on an ICBM. This is something that would greatly alarm China, Russia, both Koreas, and Taiwan. Japan does not consider a nuclear North Korea to be a threat that can be managed without a similar response on the part of Japan. Japan has been strongly anti-nuclear in policy, but they also have stockpiled all the plans and parts necessary to create nuclear weapons. Intelligence sources estimate it could take a mere six months for Japan to create a viable nuclear device and given the technological sophistication of Japan, it wouldn't be a primitive device such as North Korea has developed.

    South Korea too will likely start their own nuclear program to act as a deterrant to North Korean and Japanese aggression. Don't laugh. The relationship between South Korea and Japan is frostily cordial and has been so since the war. Both Koreas consider Japan to be their traditional enemy and a mere 60 years of peace between the two doesn't amount to much given the centuries of mutual hatred.

    Taiwan also considers itself a target as it is a US ally and should the US ever invade North Korea, Taiwan worries that it would be a target by proxy. Taiwan also does not trust North Korea and Taiwan may be looking for an excuse to develop a nuclear program to deter any idea of China invading the island. Taiwan also has the technology to rapidly develop a sophisticated and acurate nuclear weapon.

    Keep in mind also that the only deterrent to unilateral North Korean military action is China. Nukes that work gives Kim and his government far more autonomy from China than anyone in the region wants. China has always been a moderating factor on North Korean regional ambitions of any sort and now that Kim possesses nuclear weapons, China will be far more reticent to invade/"assist militarily upon invitation" North Korea if it threatens to destabilize the region into war. The expected Chinese response would be to place more military forces in the region of the Korean border... which also happens to be very close Russia.

    Russia will respond by militarizing the region, which also happens to border the Sea of Japan, placing threatening forces within arm's reach of Japan. In the middle of all this, quite literally, is South Korea, which will see her larger neighbors increasing arms and nuclear capability, and cause South Korea to respond in kind.

    Avoiding all this will be the goal of the United States. Both South Korea and Japan regard the United States as the final guarantor of their sovereignty should war come to the region. Taiwan does the same. This means that should any of these three countries be attacked, they expect the United States to step-up to the plate and defend them. The big question is, will any of these three countries believe that's possible given our current military commitments elsewhere in the world? That's tough to answer. They also have to believe that the Obama administration will continue to be as committed to the region as previous administrations have been. They also have to believe that the United States has the economic power to not only keep her military at its current strength, but significantly expand it in case of war. They also have to believe that the war weary (and wary) American people are willing to keep a pro-Japan/Korea/Taiwan government in power.

    Obama is going to be on the phone all of today and we'll likely see Mrs. Clinton dispatched to the area to assuage the rising fears of our allies. She has got to convince them not to go nuclear, not to create a regional arms race, and that the United States is in control of the situation with contingency plans which satisfy all players. This will not be easy by any means, perhaps impossible. It may mean that NATO will need to expand to Japan and South Korea.

    NATO cannot support Taiwan by any means. The Chinese would not allow it. A separate deal will have to be worked there, but the Taiwanese will see that the ball is suddenly in their court for the first time since the fall of the mainland Republic. They will have to extract explicit support from the United States, which has waffled on Taiwan since Reagan, in the form of arms sales and commitments, or they will threaten to develop their own nuclear weapons to counter the alleged Korean threat. While North Korea is a legitimate threat to Taiwan, those same nukes will also possibly prevent China from forcibly retaking Taiwan. If the US wants to maintain good relations with China, then we have to convince Taiwan not to do this despite the fact that a nuclear Taiwan is obviously in Taiwan's favor.

    This is the first major world crisis to fall into Obama's lap. It's not as if it was unexpected, so there should be policy in place already. What that policy will be and how it's executed will shape the future of western Asia.

    People talk about Kim as being a crackpot. He's not a crackpot. He's a canny leader who knows how to stay in power in a despotic regime that has come to use extortion, drug running, black market weapons sales, espionage, and dummy corporations to stay afloat. Now, finally, North Korea may be able to dictate terms to the region and thus extort more goodies from the west and China. From a North Korean perspective, this was a smart move and one that will economically help North Korea (not necessarily its citizens however). Kim IS unpredictable but so is any other good dictator who wants to stay in power when he's surrounded by sharks looking for any weakness to exploit.

    Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy era.
     
    #6 jason_els, May 25, 2009
    Last edited: May 25, 2009
  7. Jason

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    I think it is Ralph Waldo Emerson who came up with 'All history is biography', though it sounds Churchillian. And I'm much happier discussing this quote than the substance of the post, which is chilling.

    First off I think you are probably right. There is never going to be a political or moral consensus for a pre-emptive strike. It is just about possible that a unilateral Israel might go for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, and if they do this they will face the wrath of the world. Even if Israel could prove beyond doubt that Iran was hours away from destroying Tel Aviv it would still be Israel that would be presented as wrong. If the world leaders and diplomats can come up with some way of sweet talking North Korea into not using its nukes there must be hope that a change of leader might bring in someone who is not certifiably insane.

    There is a post somewhere above which suggests that North Korea is somehow comparable with America, which is an idea which needs confronting. I thought of setting out just what those differences are, but they strike me as so obvious that they don't even need saying. There is no comparison between America or any other western country or their leaders and the hell hole that has been created in North Korea. But seeking to make such a comparison somehow belittles the threat which is nuclear North Korea.
     
  8. dong20

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    Jason_els, it's refreshing to see someone thinking about the broader canvas, rather than spouting ridiculous rhetoric.

    If North Korea were an easy problem to 'solve', it would have been 'solved' long ago. I'm still less than 100% sure what NK's intentions are as opposed to what they appear to be on their face, and I entirely agree that while Kim may be a lunatic, he's not crazy.

    Add this situation to the unravelling situation in Pakistan [forget Iran] and 'suddenly' half the world may find itself a geopolitical misstep away from armageddon in a way it hasn't really been for almost twenty years. Add future [and inevitable] natural resource tensions into the mix ...
     
  9. Jason

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    A great post from Jason-els. Very few of these ideas seem to have been in the British media today (but then we are still busy on our fortnight-long orgy of picking over MPs' expense claims).

    I'm not doubting that Kim Jong-il is a canny leader. But he also has some failings which could lead to him being described by the colloquial term "crackpot". For example he has a fear of flying and travels long distance only by train, including to Moscow. He has eating fads which on his train journey to Moscow meant that live lobsters had to be flown in which he ate with silver chop-sticks. He has encouraged a cult of personality so extreme that he is virtually deified in North Korea. The fear of flying annd eating fads aren't what we expect from a national leader, but the cult of personality is something different, and anyone who allows this to develop around them is in my view crackpot. Clever, but crackpot too.
     
  10. D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse

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    Jason. It seems to me there may be problems for which there are no adequate workable solutions.

    From the Washington Post:


    The test, described as "successful" by the communist state's official Korean Central News Agency, escalates a pattern of provocation that this spring has included a long-range missile launch, detention of two U.S. journalists, kicking out U.N. nuclear inspectors, restarting a plutonium factory and halting six-nation nuclear negotiations.

    Also: On Monday afternoon, North Korea fired three surface-to-air missiles into the sea, according to South Korea's defense minister, Lee Sang-hee. It was an apparent effort to chase off U.S. spy planes monitoring the nuclear test site, according to Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, which quoted an unnamed South Korean official.

    --------------------

    Politico's article said this:

    But the sanctions already in place against North Korea are so sweeping that many analysts say the U.N. lacks new ways of pressuring the regime to return to multilateral talks, other than to pass a new strongly-worded resolution condemning the test. The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday afternoon to discuss options.

    --------------------

    The Associated Press said:

    Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed an atomic explosion at 9:54 a.m. (0054 GMT) in northeastern North Korea, estimating the blast's yield at 10 to 20 kilotons &#8212; comparable to the bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    --------------------

    World leaders are condemning the test:

    "The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants action by the international community."

    "intolerable provocation"

    "resolutely opposed"

    "grave concern to all nations"

    ----------------------

    "One has to wonder if this is part of the internal political transition that may be occurring inside North Korea," said Jim Walsh, an expert in international security and a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    --------------------


    Sanctions appear to be exhausted. This situation has the potential to become too volatile if military action were initiated.

    Besides the United States -- Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and Israel all have nuclear capabilities. And Iran is getting there.

    Is North Korea a greater harm than Pakistan and Iran? Isn't this just a waiting game until North Korea aquires (and potentially sells) long-range nuclear capabilities?

    Why does the U.S. not simply dispatch a band of CIA agents to hire thugs - or train insurgents - to assassinate and replace Kim Jong Il (the old-fashioned way)?

    In hindsight, the invasion of Iraq seems a greater folly. A greater waste of money and lives and time. That was small potatoes. It was misplaced revenge for 9/11. North Korea is serious business in a way that Saddam Hussein never was.
     
    #10 D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse, May 25, 2009
    Last edited: May 25, 2009
  11. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Kim does not fly because planes can be easily shot down and more easily catastrophically sabotaged. North Korea can control the ground, but not the sky. Her air force is large, but mainly consists of old Soviet era planes and even some biplanes. Biplanes are not sophisticated but they are the most maneuverable of all planes and a properly flown biplane can be very difficult to shoot down by missile as it does not have a large heat signature and can maneuver on a dime. A stealth fighter can easily enter North Korean airspace, shoot down a plane, and leave with little to no challenge from North Korean forces. A train would have to be overtly bombed and that may very well have happened on the last trip Kim took to China when, "an explosion," damaged the tracks his train was traveling on. When Kim travels by train, numerous identical trains are sent in the same general direction. Which train Kim is in is not known except to a handful of people and then only when he steps on board. Planes can be easily sabotaged as well, hydraulic lines made to leak, small bombs can be placed, structural parts removed: any of which could lead to catastrophic failure. Sabotaging a train may be just as easy, but it's more difficult to ensure that the sabotage will cause the death of Kim.

    Yes Kim likes his luxuries. He loves cognac, women, Cuban cigars, and fine living. Most people would if given the chance. That doesn't make him nutty. The cult of personality developed by the Kims has proven to be a brilliant means of control. It may seem insane to us, but it has kept the Kims in power and created fanatical loyalty to the regime among many of its citizens.

    Silver chopsticks aren't crazy either. Asian aesthetic taste has always regarded precious items as inherently beautiful as well as a sign of power. One famous couple in Hong Kong eats off a dining service made entirely of gold and behind each seat is a portrait of the couple painted of them wearing clothing made of gold thread. This, in most of Asia, is considered quite beautiful rather than an ostentatious display of megalomania as it might be in the west. I have a pair of true jade chopsticks presented to me as a gift and I would not consider eating with them, but most Asians would. And how many western families eat from a utensil service of silver every day or on important occasions? One of the standard gifts of a wedding is a sterling silver service. It's no more crazy to eat from silver chopsticks than with silver forks, knives, and spoons.

    It's really important not to dismiss or underestimate one's adversaries no matter how insane they may seem. Kim really hasn't done anything to promote the image of an insane person and I think the American press has done a very poor job of properly portraying Kim to the detriment of Americans. You have to listen to what he says, how he works, and then place what he's doing in the context of history and contemporary politics both domestic and foreign. It's no secret that China, not to mention the rest of the world, doesn't love Kim and would prefer to have a more reasonable person running the show yet Kim survives and even thrives despite all the plots hatched to unseat him.
     
    #11 jason_els, May 25, 2009
    Last edited: May 25, 2009
  12. D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse

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    Tail end of a Reuters article:


    "North Korea can only be hawkish this time, because time's running out for Kim Jong-il," said Jang Cheol-hyeon, an expert at the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul and a former official at the Workers Party of North Korea.

    Kim wants to seal a deal with the United States quickly and seek a swift and sharp improvement in the country's economy before he can publicly anoint one of his sons to succeed him, Jang said.

    "The recent military moves are yet another signal of trying to invite the U.S. to negotiations," he said.

    --------------------

    From a new Washington Post article:

    Analysts said the test may also be related to succession issues.

    Last summer Kim reportedly suffered a stroke, and recent photos show that he is much thinner and more frail. His youngest son, Kim Jong Un, is widely speculated to be the most likely successor. "North Korea's leader is ailing, and he may be impatient," said Koh Yu-whan, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul's Dongguk University. "Realizing that there is change in store for him, Kim seems to have opted for a strong message that the United States cannot ignore."

    North Korea has focused on establishing full diplomatic relations with the United States and receiving recognition as a nuclear state, according to several official statements and many analysts.

    Obama's special envoy to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, has signaled he is willing to begin bilateral talks with Pyongyang, as well as continue negotiations in a six-nation disarmament forum. But North Korea is rejecting all talks, accusing Obama of continuing the Bush administration's "hostile policy."

    "North Korea's message is that they are heading towards status as a nuclear nation and that they will, therefore, deal only with the United States," said Cha Du-hyeogn, director of North Korean research at the Seoul-based Korean Institute of Defense Analysis, a government-affiliated think tank. "This is no easy situation for the United States and a worse one for South Korea."
     
  13. SpeedoGuy

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    Is there any precedent for a nation with a burgeoning nuclear weapons program being persuaded or intimidated into halting it?
     
  14. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Yes. Libya voluntarily abandoned its program when the US invaded Iraq. Libya's dictator called Italy's Prime Minister to announce that it would do this so that Libya would not suffer the same fate as Iraq. Libya also paid reparations to the victims of the Pan Am/Lockerbie bombing under the same reasoning.

    South Africa had functioning nuclear weapons it had developed in secret with Israel and voluntarily disassembled them and submitted to UN inspections to prove it. This occurred just before the end of apartheid. Those countries which assisted in ending apartheid also strongly advised the South African government to dismantle their weapons before the changeover.

    The former Soviet republics with nuclear weapons stationed in those new countries, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus did not want to keep them for the most part, however it must be noted that they weren't being given an option to keep them either. Russia and the US under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program saw to it that nuclear (and chemical) weapons were cleared out of these countries.

    These are, except for Libya, unusual circumstances rather unlike the scenario you have in mind, however intimidation was at work in one form or another.
     
  15. dong20

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    It seems, Pyongyang is ratcheting up the pressure by firing a couple of short range SAMs. although I'm not sure that's especially newsworthy in it's own right, it can hardly be coincidental.

    North Korea fires more missiles - Yahoo! News UK

    I wonder what's next ... full page ads on Google?
     
  16. Flashy

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    well stated as always Jase.

    there was a white paper on this a while ago that mirrored the same thoughts and scenario...

    this is a very very difficult situation.
     
  17. midlifebear

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    Just a side note about folks eating with silver utensils, whether they be "chop sticks" or grandma's sterling flatware. Silver acts as a natural antiseptic and germicide. Hence, one of the reasons it evolved as a favorite metal for keeping food warm (chafing dishes) serving food, and eating food. It certainly wasn't chosen because grandma enjoyed polishing it. Anyway, sterling silver chop sticks are common eating utensils found throughout China and South East Asia.
     
  18. dong20

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    Indeed.

    BTW, silver (typically a coin) was once used to aid in keeping milk and water fresh in the days before refrigeration and purification. I believe the 'silver spoon in the mouth' idiom is rooted in this - silver spoons were a common gift to infants (also silver teething rings) I'd imagine primarily in wealthy families.

    The ancient Greeks used silver vessels for the same purpose - the Romans with wine. Lately I've seen silver's antibacterial properties used as a selling point for deodorant.

    It's also amusing how often (often unintentionally) cultural preconceptions can lead to flawed inferences.

    Perhaps his choice of eating utensils has helped (in some small way) to prolong Kim's spell in power.

    How's that for a thread topic digression. :biggrin1:
     
  19. pym

    pym New Member

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    Back on track then.......Why does Australia not take a larger role as the leading voice of the FREE world in that region, along with Japan? I say that in this instance, this is a clear and present danger to all those within striking distance of North Korea's armament capability such as it is. Let those in that sphere of ballistics handle the negotiations with N.Korea.
    I do not see this as another 'Challenge for Obama' as our national media is touting. S.Koreans out number the N.Koreans by a considerble margin. Let them step up to the plate. In fact....were i OBAMA...i would be seriously considering the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the DMZ.
    I think for a very long time that we were there as technical advisors....now that half the electronics technologies in the world come from S.Korea, i doubt we have much to offer them any longer. And that includes there ability to manufacture there own high tech munitions. After all, Espionage has been so rampant since the end of WW2.....what don't they know? U.S. needs to stay out of this one.
     
  20. dong20

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    The US has treaty obligations to S. Korea, in the event it's attacked and given the history it's hard to see how it could walk away. That said, it's also hard to see what the US can do (that's sensible or meaningful) that hasn't been tried already. It's evident that cajoling and appeasing have failed, armed intervention would be disastrous ... an engineered coup?

    Hoping for a regime collapse isn't really much of an option either, given the chaos that would likely result and the lack of robust support for reunification from the South. A regime change may be a [partial] solution but the [almost certain] successor (his young son Kim Jong-un) hardly inspires hope.

    I read a few months back that his son Kim Jong-un was soon to be 'nominated' heir and he was recently appointed to low level post at the defence commision - but perhaps Kim senior's buddy Jang Song-taek may yet get the 'nod' - given Kim il-Jong's ill health and low profile it seems plausible he's de facto leader already. He's also 'part of the family' in being married (I think) to Kim's sister. So many rumours and conflicting reports, it's hard to keep up!

    It is a indeed a difficult situation, perhaps why it has been so long been left unsolved. Many loose threads which could so easily unravel.
     
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