Pyongyang has detonated another nuclear warhead, and it appears to be the largest yet tested, and it also appears that it was a test of further warhead miniaturization:
North Korea said it conducted a “higher level” nuclear test explosion on Friday that will allow it to finally build “at will” an array of stronger, smaller and lighter nuclear weapons. It was the North’s fifth atomic test and the second in eight months.
South Korea’s president called the detonation, which Seoul estimated was the North’s biggest-ever in explosive yield, an act of “fanatic recklessness.” Japan called North Korea an “outlaw nation.”
North Korea’s boast of a technologically game-changing nuclear test defied both tough international sanctions and long-standing diplomatic pressure to curb its nuclear ambitions. It will raise serious worries in many world capitals that North Korea has moved another step closer to its goal of a nuclear-armed missile that could one day strike the U.S. mainland.
Hours after South Korea noted unusual seismic activity near North Korea’s northeastern nuclear test site, the North said in its state-run media that a test had “finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of (a) nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets.”
South Korea’s weather agency said the explosive yield of the North Korean blast would have been 10 to 12 kilotons, or 70 to 80 percent of the force of the 15-kiloton atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. The North’s fourth test was an estimated six kilotons.
North Korean leader Kim has overseen a robust increase in the number and kinds of missiles tested this year. Not only has the range of the weapons jumped significantly, but the country is working to perfect new platforms for launching them — submarines and mobile launchers — giving the North greater ability to threaten the tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed throughout Asia.
Here is what I think is the most critical bit of the story:
Diplomacy has so far failed. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for aid were last held in late 2008 and fell apart in early 2009.
The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Technically, the US and the ROK are still at war with the DPRK.
What’s more the diplomatic conflict is primarily between the DPRK and the US, and the US refuses one-on-one negotiations, because our foreign policy establishment sees any negotiations as a reward.
This is really pretty simple.
Pyongyang is convinced that the US intends to launch a surprise decapitation strike on them, and this is what drives their military and diplomatic activities.
The refusal of the US to engage them directly, or to exchange ambassadors, which was agreed to* in 1994, reinforces their belief, and provides much of the impetus for their bellicose behavior.
*Also the supply of a proliferation resistant light reactor, food aid, and a dropping of sanctions.