N.Korean nuclear test short of strategic deterrent

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/9 19:05:00

North Korea's official media announced today the country had successfully conducted a nuclear test, confirming international media reports that Pyongyang had carried out its fifth nuclear test. A 5.0-magnitude earthquake in North Korea was detected by overseas monitoring services. South Korea claims the explosion was equivalent to about 10,000 tons of TNT, the most powerful one North Korea has tested thus far.
 
Today’s test happened only eight months after the claimed hydrogen bomb test of January, the shortest time span between any two previous tests. Two weeks ago, North Korea conducted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test, and a few days ago it launched three missiles. 

Pyongyang seems to be set to intimidate the US and South Korea, who are exerting more military pressure. It is also trying to force the international community to abandon their efforts to seek a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. But the efforts only drew a backlash. It has created anger and embarrassment, but unlikely to scare the outside world. The other five countries of the Six-Party Talks, which are now in a deadlock, are unlikely to make concessions.

North Korea should bear in mind that nuclear weapons are only a strategic deterrent tool and cannot be resorted to. North Korea has scarce resources and its economy is limited, therefore, even if it has the ability to make nuclear bombs, the number of its nuclear arsenal would be small, so it could not reach the minimum threshold of a global nuclear power. Its nuclear capability would pale in comparison with the nuclear prowess of the US. The US believes if North Korea uses nuclear weapons first, it would lead to its destruction. North Korea is not capable of ensuring an effective strike-back after being hit by a nuclear weapon. Several factors combined, North Korea cannot build a nuclear deterrent in the traditional sense. 
 
Look at how much Pyongyang has sacrificed to develop nuclear weapons. It has become the world’s most isolated country. It is suffering from extreme economic difficulties and sees no hope of getting out of trouble any time soon. No North Korean leader has visited China in the past few years. Its top leader diplomacy is almost zero. Owning nuclear weapons appears to have added a strategic tool for North Korea. But the severance of diplomatic channels means the “growth in national strength” cannot transform to influence. 

Northeast Asia is in a mess. The THAAD issue has led to a stalemate between China and the US-South Korea alliance. North Korea is taking advantage of this, hastening its nuclear tests. Seoul believes the new North Korean tests make it more necessary for the US to deploy the THAAD missile system. 

They are all wrong. What they are doing will only drag Northeast Asia into deeper chaos. The Korean Peninsula will become an even more dangerous powder keg. 

Owning nuclear weapons won't ensure North Korea's political security. On the contrary, it is poison that is slowly suffocating the country. It is turning into a country possibly with one or two nuclear bombs but nothing else - no prosperity, no opening up, no confidence in national security. Pyongyang will have to always be on alert.

North Korea has not become any stronger because of its fifth nuclear test. The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue knot has merely tightened.  
It's North Korea's national day on Friday. We understand how eager the country wants to boost morale and enhance national cohesion. But the nuclear weapon that’s more like a firework for the North Korean people may well become one that signals a new crisis. We sincerely hope North Korea is aware of the situation and open to advice.


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