North Korea has announced that it successfully carried out another underground nuclear test on Monday. The nuclear explosion came on the heels of the North’s April 5 launching of a long-range rocket, which drew condemnation from the United Nations Security Council in the form of a presidential statement.
Monday’s test defied UNSC resolution 1718 — issued after North Korea conducted its first nuclear explosion on Oct. 9, 2006 — which demanded that the North refrain from conducting additional nuclear tests. No doubt the act will raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula; the international community must unite and act to prevent North Korea from taking further provocative actions.
On Jan. 17, the North Korean armed forces said that the country would adopt an “all-out confrontational posture” toward South Korea. After the UNSC condemned North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch and called for sanctions, Pyongyang threatened to retaliate by testing an intercontinental ballistic missile and another nuclear device.
Pyongyang claimed that Monday’s test helped it to solve “scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear weapons.” The test came just one month after it announced that it would restart reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.
Behind Pyongyang’s latest move appears to be its frustration over Washington’s reluctance to hold bilateral negotiations with the North to normalize the ties between the two countries. The North also appears to want to strengthen its position vis-a-vis the United States and Japan by establishing itself as a nuclear weapons state. But the Obama administration has made it clear that it will not be swayed by North Korea’s brinkmanship tactics.
So far, China and Russia have taken a rather conciliatory approach to North Korea, but this will likely change in the wake of Monday’s nuclear test. Given this and the likelihood that the U.S. and Japan will strengthen their sanctions against Pyongyang, Monday’s nuclear test may serve only to further isolate North Korea rather than to improve its diplomatic hand.
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