Monday, October 09, 2006

The Club Gets Larger?

Waking up this morning to news that North Korea has apparently tested a nuclear device should not be comforting to anyone. The North has been saying they were going to test a device sooner or later, and last week had stated that they would test one over the weekend.

Well, they apparently did. Testing underground means that specific kinds of earthquakes are created as a result of the detonation. The USGS detected an earthquake in the region of one of the suspected test sites, and it would appear to confirm that a device was detonated in the range of a Hiroshima-class device (that is, the device detonated the equivalent force of the Hiroshima device).

So, what does this mean?

Well, the UN Security Council will meet to discuss the issue. No word on when a harshly worded statement will be forthcoming, but don't expect military force, and sanctions don't appear to do much good here either. The world might condemn, but actions speak louder than words.

President Bush will be issuing a statement later today as well. No doubt he'll denounce the test, and call on the region's powers to deal with North forcefully and resolutely. He might even signal that the Japanese and South Koreans have asserted they will take the steps they deem necessary to deter North Korean aggression, which could signal a regional nuclear arms race.

China, which has been North Korea's backer, and primary supplier of food and energy, appears to have lost its clout to push North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. Considering that China has long avoided trying to deal with rogue nations and actively engaged the likes of Iran and Sudan despite their human rights abuses and military ambitions, having a rogue nuclear nation on their own border might change the Chinese government's position going forward, though I much doubt it.

What exactly does North Korea want? That's the billion dollar question, and no one really knows for sure. They may say they want more food and oil, but none of it actually goes to the North Korean people, who continue to starve and die in large numbers.

What could this Administration have done differently? Well, as Democrats like Joe Biden would have you think, the Administration didn't negotiate directly with the North Koreans. In this instance, taking the cowboy approach would have contradicted their claims that the US needed multilateral policy on Iraq, but the substantive positions vis-a-vis North Korea are no different whether it is just the US negotiating or the US as part of the six-power talks. The benefits of the six-power talks was that the regional powers, you know, the ones that are actually in the firing path if L'il Kim actually starts a shooting war, have a vested interest in getting North Korea to cease and desist. North Korea knows this, and resists those talks, and tries to divide and conquer by claiming to only want to talk with the US.

Meanwhile, going nuclear isn't an overnight affair. It takes a good long time, and the seeds were sown in the 1990s when the world thought that they could get North Korea to give up its weapons ambitions in the Agreed Framework. Well, North Korea violated that Framework at every turn because there was no verification and no penalties should the North violate the Framework. Everyone patted themselves on the back for getting a piece of paper signed, never understanding for even one moment that a piece of paper means nothing if there's no provision for what to do on violations - and no one intended to carry out any such provisions in any event during the 1990s.

There's plenty of blame to go around as to who 'let' North Korea go nuclear, and as a political question, it happened on Bush's watch, with a major assist from a feckless Clinton Administration who put its trust in Jimmy Carter to write up an agreement that had more holes than swiss cheese.

North Korea wanted the bomb, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them.

That's a lesson that must be driven home now, while the question of Iran's nuclear ambitions remains one that is still short of actually possessing the bomb.

Others grappling with the issue: Stop the ACLU, Rick Moran, Confederate Yankee, and Don Surber.

For what it's worth, I really doubt that this story will finally push Foleygate into its proper perspective.

Are the North Koreans preparing a second test? That's what the AFP is reporting. The North has had more than a decade to stockpile weapons, and testing them in quick succession could give some insight into the size of the stockpile as the willingness to test these devices shows the North's determination to use these weapons for all their worth economically and politically.

Ed Morrissey wonders what the Russians are up to, in providing cover for the North Koreans. Facially, it is mystifying, but the Russians are looking to see how much trouble they can make for their historical rivals, the Chinese. And that it puts the hurt on the Japanese, South Koreans, and the US is a bonus.

Austin Bay notes that the Chinese and North Koreans have been at odds for quite some time now, and the test isn't going to sit well with the Chinese. That also might suggest that the Russians are trying to expand their influence with the North at the expense of the Chinese.

James Joyner points out comments by Richard Gardener who thinks that we shouldn't call the North Koreans part of the nuclear club just yet, but I think that's a semantic point. They have nuclear weapons, and wondering whether they've crossed their t's and dotted their i's doesn't diminish the import of today's events.

Another interesting point is that the technology involved in producing a nuclear weapon isn't exactly new. It's been around for more than 60 years, and the US managed to go nuclear without the benefit of modern computers and had to invent the technologies behind the fabrication and production of nuclear weapons from scratch. Everyone else on the planet simply has to see what the US did and how they did it. The physics are proven, and the key threshold is the procurement of the weapons grade materials for the bombs. With time, even that problem is overcome.

Others blogging: Sister Toldjah, LaShawn Barber, and Bryan Preston.

There are quite a few questions over the yield of the device detonated by the North. The Russians say it was anything from 5,000 tons to 15,000 tons, which if it holds to the high end would be comparable to the yield of the Hiroshima device. However, the size of the resulting earthquake put the yield at a much lower level. There are several possible explanations for this, including that the North was testing the reliability of components and verifying the soundness of the design or that it was a fizzle (which is where the device doesn't operate at peak efficency and fails to detonate properly).

Didn't take long for the left to blame Bush for failing to stop North Korea from going nuclear. Still, as I noted above, the Clinton policy of the Agreed Framework worked out fabulously, if you don't mind North Korea going nuclear on someone else's watch. The Agreed Framework was the equivalent of a punt. Let someone else do the heavy lifting because you don't have the time or effort to figure out that the North was going to go nuclear regardless of whatever deal was proposed and accepted.

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton says that an attack on South Korea or Japan would be considered an attack on the US. That's the extension of the nuclear umbrella that the US has long held out over Europe and our allies. This reconfirms that policy.

Iran says that they blame the US for the North Koreans going nuclear. Nothing quite like a diversion from their own nuclear ambitions.

South Korea suspends humanitarian aid shipments to the North. Perhaps this might finally make South Korea reconsider the Sunshine Policy, which has enabled North Korea to sputter along and devote its meager resources to its military and nuclear ambitions instead of feeding the country and looking out for the welfare of its people.

Malkin notes that a good portion of the Continental United States would be in range of North Korea's Taepo Dong 2 missiles (assuming they work). Makes you wonder whether your elected officials approved the Ballistic Missile Defense program or sought to kill/prevent its implementation.

Fer schnizzel, it's a fizzle? That doesn't bode well for L'il Kim's scientists, who will have some serious explaining to do as they're dragged away to the North Korean gulag archipelago. It remains a possibility that they were testing only portions of a weapon, and not the weapon itself.

All this comes as South Korean Ban Ki-moon is set to be approved as the next Secretary General of the UN, bringing to a close the very ugly Kofi Annan years.

Meanwhile, you've got North Korean soldiers (sailors?) on board a decrepit ship offering their view on the situation. I'd say less time cursing out the South Koreans, and more time spent on rust control aka swabbing the decks. That ship looks like it's in such bad shape that it probably isn't particularly seaworthy.

Via Instapundit, Donald Sensing wonders whether this wasn't a proof of concept design test. The key to determining whether this was a successful test for the North or not depends entirely on what they expected the yield to be. Sensing also notes that a small weapon has large consequences, especially if it were designed to be a terror weapon and not necessarily a city killer. Still, one would like to know the physical size of the device, and not just its yield.

Perusing the UN daily briefings are fun for a laugh if the subject matter wasn't so serious. Kofi Annan is deeply concerned. Oh really? He's out of the door on January 1, and it's up to Ban Ki-moon to deal with the fallout from this latest crisis.

However, if you want real laughs, one has to go to the IAEA and Director General Mohamed ElBaradei:
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said this reported nuclear test threatens the nuclear non-proliferation regime and creates serious security challenges not only for the East Asian region but also for the international community. He said the breaking of a de facto global moratorium on nuclear explosive testing that has been in place for nearly a decade and the addition of a new State with nuclear weapon capacity is a clear setback to international commitments to move towards nuclear disarmament.
There hasn't been a de facto moratorium for the past decade if anyone with a functioning neuron would take note of the fact that Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Iran were all engaging in nuclear weapons development and acquisition. Libya gave up its program to the PSI, and the Saudis were responding to the Iranian threat. Does AQ Khan ring any bells for Baradei? Probably not, because he's the guy most responsible for the latest round of nuclear proliferation in South Asia and among the Islamists. For all that, the IAEA and Baradei shared the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2005.

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