Pyongyang Says Hello

With today's nuclear test, the second in the country's history and by all accounts more successful than its previous fizzle, the regime of Kim Jong-il has chosen to remind the world that it still exists and plans to continue to exist. North Korea is today more a family enterprise than anything else, Kim Jong-il intends to leave his progeny a semblance of a country to govern. The long and short of it is that the DPRK, as the country prefers to be called, has used its military threat to squeeze concessions from global powers to maintain and shore up its power at home.

While today's explosion was a calling card sent to Seoul, Tokyo, Washington and perhaps even Moscow, North Korea was also sending a business card to Damascus and Tehran saying hey there, see what we can do. Do business with us. The threat from North Korea is effectively a proliferation threat. Cash-strapped North Korea has mastered the nuclear fuel cycle and it could sell its nuclear expertise to states aiming to make plutonium for weapons.

North Korea also has a few limitations it must solve before it becomes a threat to its neighbors. For starters, North Korea is thought to have produced enough plutonium for about six to eight weapons and it has already produced one rudimentary nuclear device back in October 2006. So now with this second device, its plutonium store is lessened. North Korea also faces a miniaturization problem. It likely cannot miniaturize a nuclear weapon to mount it on a missile that it can deploy. North Korea might be able to produce more weapons grade plutonium but it remains a long way from miniaturizing a weapon.

Beyond all this, what the North Koreans really want is to chat one-on-one with Washington. We, on the other hand, prefer the six-party talks and using the United Nations to impose sanctions. Sanctions that restrict North Korea's financial capabilities likely remain the most effective but it bears reminding that China is unlikely to back punitive sanctions on Pyongyang.

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South Korea Reports a DPRK Nuclear Test

Via the Korea Times:

North Korea appears to have conducted its second nuclear test Monday morning, Yonhap News Agency reported.

South Korea has detected an "artificial earthquake" in North Korea, raising the possibility that the communist state went ahead with its threat to conduct a nuclear test, Yonhap said, quoting a source.

"It was felt shortly before 10:00," the source said, declining to be named and adding that the magnitude was estimated at 4.5.

The Korean Central News Agency, the official news organ of the DPRK, has so far not reported the test. North Korea has been threatening to conduct another nuclear device test in reaction to tightened international sanctions after it fired a long-range rocket in April across the Sea of Japan. North Korea conducted its first test in October 2006.

According to Yonhap, the ROK news service, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called an emergency meeting of his cabinet ministers over the test. No word yet from the Obama Administration.

Update [2009-5-24 23:53:14 by Charles Lemos]: According to the Associated Press, North Korea has confirmed that it conducted an underground nuclear test early on Monday morning, local time. The AP is quoting the country's official Korean Central News Agency as saying that Monday's test are "part of measures to bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense." But I cannot find any mention of any test on DPRK's news site.
A 4.7-magnitude earthquake was registered in northeastern North Korea at 9:54 a.m. (0054 GMT), the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake, measured at a depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers) underground, occurred 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of the city of Kimchaek, the USGS said. The Japan Meteorological Agency also said it detected seismic activity Monday morning. "We are checking whether they were due to a nuclear test," agency official Gen Aoki said in Tokyo. In Seoul, the Korea Institue of Geoscience and Mineral Resources reported a 4.5-magnitude quake in Kilju in North Hamgyong Province. North Korea also carried out a nuclear test in October 2006 in Kilju, a test that drew sanctions from the United Nations and prompted five other nations to push negotiations on a nuclear disablement-for-aid pact with North Korea. In Washington, State Department spokesman Andy Laine said the U.S. government had no confirmation of a new nuclear test. "At this point we've seen the reports and we're trying to get more information, but we're not able to confirm at this time," Laine said.
The other response to watch for will be Beijing's. The test seems to have taken the world's intelligence agencies by surprise. More from the New York Times.

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U.S. to N.K.: Young man, if you do that one more time . . .

Have you ever heard the ineffectual parents in the mall, who repeatedly warn their kids not to do something (without consequences), and the kids repeatedly ignore their parents, getting bolder each time?

That's our North Korea policy (bipartisan, from Bush to Clinton to Bush to Obama).

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North Korea Defiantly Launches Rocket Over Japan

Remember when Joe Biden said Barack Obama would be tested early in his first term? I'd say this qualifies.

North Korea fired a rocket over Japan on Sunday, defying Washington, Tokyo and others who suspect the launch was cover for a test of its long-range missile technology. President Barack Obama warned the move would further isolate the communist nation.

Liftoff took place at 11:30 a.m. (0230 GMT) from the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea, the South Korean and U.S. governments said. The multistage rocket hurtled toward the Pacific, reaching Japanese airspace within seven minutes, but no debris appeared to hit its territory, officials in Tokyo said.

Four hours after the launch, North Korea declared it a success. The satellite reached outer space in just over nine minutes and was orbiting without any problems, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch from Pyongyang.

The UN Security Council will hold a special session Sunday afternoon to address North Korea's actions.

President Obama issued this statement after the launch:

In a statement, Obama said the launch was "a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind."

"With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations," Obama said. "We will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and (South Korea), and members of the U.N. Security Council to bring this matter before the Council," Obama added. "I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions."

No doubt this will be topic one on the morning shows.

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Bush Declares National Emergency. Meanwhile: Israel and Iran...

So, I'm in the process of posting my diary on Booman and Joe Klein, getting it right on Israel and Iran, and I see that Chimpy just declared a national emergency with regard to North Korea. SEE: I guess if you throw enough shit up on the wall, eventually, some of it will stick. Hopefully, not.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that the current existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I further find that, as we deal with that threat through multilateral diplomacy, it is necessary to continue certain restrictions with respect to North Korea that would otherwise be lifted pursuant to a forthcoming proclamation that will terminate the exercise of authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq.) (TWEA) with respect to North Korea.

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