The Nuclear Storm
North Korea has again ignited a storm by declaring its first successful test of a nuclear weapon. If the nuclear test was successful, we may never know. We do know that the blast has set into motion an international firestorm of condemnation and threats. If we are wise, we will neglect this test, as it is a mere tool to gain attention. To begin with, despite the country’s impressive military might, it is in their best interest to not start a conflict. They would also face difficult hassles in deploying and exploding any first generation nuclear weapons.
Despite being a major military power, the isolated and destitute state would have much to lose in any new conflict. It is highly dependent on its neighbors for oil and grain imports. The eruption of a new war would quickly halt that flow, a no doubt unappealing concept for any country. It is also contrary to the repeatedly stated ambitions of its leader Kim Jong-il, to achieve greater recognition for his state and deter any United States aggression. With the prospect of mushroom clouds bursting over South Korea or China, the United States now has even less incentive to threaten the North Koreans.
Another issue dogging the North Koreans is the prospect of deploying their nuclear weapons. Given our country’s long experience with nuclear devices, it is unlikely that they own a weapon capable of being fitted to a ballistic missile. The United States first plutonium bomb, Fat Man, weighed over five tons and was the volume of a small bus. It was also a very awkward and fragile machine that took the full attention of experts to use in the best of circumstance. It would be incredible if the North Koreans could succeed any better with their first bomb.
In the end, the final ironic tragedy of this explosive event may be that Kim Jong-il receives just the attention that he seeks. Once again he has called the bluff of the United States and its allies, knowing full well that we have neither the political will nor manpower to fight a sustained strife in Korea. It will be back to the negotiation table and the cycle will persist until the North Koreans are satisfied with their status in the world.