North Korea has carried out their threat to test an atomic weapon.
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea on Monday claimed it has performed a successful nuclear test, according to that country's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).So Kim fufilled his threat. What is to be done now is the big question.
South Korean government officials also said North Korea performed its first nuclear test, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.
The apparent nuclear test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. (1:36 a.m. GMT) in Hwaderi near Kilju city, Yonhap reported, citing defense officials.
"The field of scientific research in the DPRK (North Korea's official name) successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9 ... at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation," KCNA reported.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, "We can't confirm independently, although we're aware of the reports."
A senior U.S. official said China was given a 20-minute warning ahead of the test and in turn told the United States, Japan and South Korea about getting the advance notice.
A U.S. military official told CNN that "something clearly has happened," but the Pentagon was working to fully confirm the report.
Other senior U.S. officials said they also believed the test took place, citing seismic data that appears to show one.
The U.S. Geological Survey Web site recorded a light 4.2-magnitude earthquake in North Korea at 10:35 a.m., about 385 kilometers (240 miles) northeast of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
South Korean intelligence officials said a seismic wave of magnitude-3.58 had been detected in North Hamkyung province, according to Yonhap.
I've blogged before about how I saw no easy solutions to the North Korean situation. As usual, GI in Korea gives some of the best commentary on Korean affairs.
So what does this all mean? Here is my theory. North Korea has never had any intentions of giving up it's nuclear program, the failure of the 1994 Agreed Framework only confirms this. The North Koreans were happy to appear to give up their ambitions of wanting nuclear weapons in return for international aid while covertly working on them any way and playing nice to the international community. Things changed with the Bush Administration. President Bush's policy is that the North Koreans will not receive US aid unless it thoroughly without a doubt ends their nuclear weapon program. Bush wasn't about to cut a deal just to keep the North Koreans quiet and out of the headlines and pass the problem to a future presidential administration that would allow the North Koreans to continue to receive aid while at the same time covertly working on their nuclear weapons program. If Bush had cut a deal with the North Koreans and let's say a Democratic president takes power in 2008 and the North Korean nuclear issue came up again what do you think that Democratic Administration would be saying about the deal Bush cut with the North Koreans? They would say it is a failure and that is one of the reasons why Bush isn't dealing.Kim is a unpredictable sociopath and mostly interested in his own survival. He also craves attention and outwardly fears no one. A military showdown is the only way to end the threat Kim Il-Jong poses but I don't know if there is anyone with the stomach for it. US troop levels are dropping on the peninsula, and with our other commitments , are unlikely to increase. Its more likely the US will withdraw totally from the ROK within the next ten years. If Kim attacked southward there is good reason to question if South Koreans have the will to face the casualties that would go with another war taking place in their homeland. Of course one may question just how ready the DPRK army is considering the sanctions imposed on the country and the ongoing famine. Troops do need to be nourished in order to be fit enough to fight.
Now why do the North Koreans want nukes so bad? The North Koreans want nuclear weapons to ensure regime survival from any chance of outside attack. The threat of an outside invasion of North Korea is null and void if they have the ability to nuke Seoul or Tokyo, two of the world's largest cities. Keep in mind that they do not have that capability yet because they have not miniaturized their nukes to fit on one of their missiles. It probably won't take them too many more months to do it though. So the positives from this test from Kim Jong-il's perspective is that he has gained the country international prestige, moved closer to ensuring regime survival at least from international attack, and has won heavy favor from his generals by allowing them to detonate a nuclear weapon.
So what are the potential negatives for Kim? The worst threat would be an attack on North Korea from the US. If an attack on North Korea is just a bombing campaign to destroy his nuclear facilities than this would actually be a positive for him because then he could play the victim of the evil US imperialist card, roll out footage of civilian casualties on CNN, and use the attack to prove his point of why he needs nuclear weapons. So a limited attack on his country would be a major win for him. However, a full scale military attack to remove him would obviously end with his removal. I think this possibility is not likely because a second Korean War would lead to hundreds of thousands of South Korean deaths, hundred of missiles would land on Japanese cities potentially killing thousands of Japanese, and US military casualties would number into the thousands. The casualties from a second Korean War would easily dwarf the number of casualties from the current Iraq War. The highly mountainous Korean terrain is not conducive to the American military. Many battles would be fought by dismounted infantry in hill fights; this is what would lead to the thousands of casualties not to mention the potential of chemical and biological weapons being used. Bottom line any war with North Korea would be a destructive blood bath that the American public is not ready to fight. So this option is pretty much out the window and Kim Jong-il knows it.
The next negative for Kim Jong-il is threat of increased sanctions on his country. He knows that more sanctions are sure to come but is counting on China and South Korea to keep him a float. Kim may be reasoning that China is not willing to cut aid to his country that would lead to it's collapse because of the refugee and humanitarian crisis that would instantly engulf China before they host the 2008 Olympic Games. The Chinese consider the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as their coming out party to the world that the Chinese are now truly a global superpower. War and a humanitarian crisis in China could threaten the games that the Chinese have worked so hard to prepare for. Thus Kim Jong-il figures the Chinese will talk tough just to appease the international community but will still give him the aid he needs. Kim also figures that as long as the leftist Roh Moo-hyun administration is in power in South Korea he will still keep getting aid from them as well though as I've mentioned before possibly the US worked out a deal with the South Koreans to stop aid to the North in return for the support of Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General if the North Koreans conduct a nuclear weapons test. With these two countries still providing him aid he knows his country can with stand any further sanctions that would hit the country. Maybe a couple more million people from the North Korean peasant class will starve to death but judging from Kim's track record he really doesn't care. He is only concerned about bringing home the money and power to the military and his regime elite in Pyongyang.
So there are the positives and the negatives and obviously the positives for Kim outweigh the negatives and that is why I felt he would test the bomb; once again the only thing I was surprised by was the timing.
What a mess is the best description of all this. Sanctions aren't going to work, and leaving Kim in power could destabilize the region by the subsequent arming of Japan which will certainly cause tensions. Most of the region still doesn't forget what Japan did in WWII. A military option may be necessary, but its going to be ugly. I don't know if there is any politician in either the ROK or the US willing to take the risks that are look increasingly needed to be taken.
Other bloggers discussing this news- Stop the ACLU, Blue Star, Flopping Aces, Michelle Malkin, Jo's Cafe, Captain's Quarters, Real Ugly American, Uncooperative Blogger, Morning Coffee, One Big Dog, Below the Beltway, Kim at Wizbang, Sister Toldjah, California Conservative, James Joyner at OTB, Poliblog, Betsy, Gay Patriot, Don Surber, LaShawn Barber, A Blog for all, Indian Chris at Hooah Wife and Friends,