News / Asia

Analysts: N. Korea is Serious About New Nuclear Test

People watch a TV news showing file footage of a North Korean rocket carried during a military parade, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, January 24, 2013.
People watch a TV news showing file footage of a North Korean rocket carried during a military parade, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, January 24, 2013.
North Korea's latest threat to conduct its third nuclear test and launch more long-range rockets is not just bluster but part of a deliberate effort by an increasingly confident Pyongyang to build up its atomic weapons capacity, analysts say.

The National Defense Commission, the North's highest military body, said Thursday the planned moves include a series of satellite and long-range rocket launches as well as a nuclear test "of a higher level" targeting what it called its "arch enemy," the United States.

It sharply rejected Tuesday's unanimous censure by the United Nations Security Council of North Korea's December 12 rocket launch as a violation of existing U.N. sanctions.

White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned Pyongyang's announcement as "needlessly provocative" and said any further actions by North Korea would violate U.N. resolutions and increase the country's diplomatic isolation.

Deliberate effort

But according to former U.S. State Department official Mitchell Reiss, Washington should expect the North's new, untested leader, Kim Jong Un, to carry out the threats, which pose huge challenges not only for the United States, but his last remaining major ally, China.

"Over the past few decades, there has been a very deliberate, methodical march by the North to develop, and eventually refine and perfect both its ballistic missiles and its nuclear capability.  So [a third nuclear test] is not a question of if, but when," said Reiss, who has years of private and public sector experience negotiating with the North Koreans.

He said the purpose of an eventual third test would likely be to develop "a warhead small enough to be placed on a ballistic missile that could be delivered at long range."

Punggye-ri, North Korea nuclear test sitePunggye-ri, North Korea nuclear test site
Punggye-ri, North Korea nuclear test site
Punggye-ri, North Korea nuclear test site
Recent satellite photos suggest North Korea has been preparing for a nuclear test, at the same Punggye-ri site where it conducted its previous tests in 2006 and 2009.

"The preparations have been under way, so it's pretty clear that regardless of what the Security Council did, they were going to be deeply offended and decide on their test," said Ralph Cossa of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum.

South Korea's Defense Ministry Thursday said the facility could be ready to conduct a test at any time, if Kim decides to do so.

Minutes before the latest threat, the U.S. special envoy on North Korea, Glyn Davies, told reporters in Seoul that North Korea should not carry out the test.

Chinese wildcard

A number of factors could influence when North Korea actually moves ahead with its plans, among them hard-to-define internal issues within the reclusive dictatorship as well as the behavior of South Korea and China.

Reiss, who said Pyongyang's behavior is antagonizing Beijing, described China's endorsement of this week's United Nations resolution as part of an "increasing reassessment" by intellectuals, academics and the Chinese Communist Party "about the value and wisdom of keeping North Korea as the type of ally [it has been]."

He said the Chinese have "significant influence" over North Korea both as an energy/food supplier and a "safety valve" source of temporary employment for North Korean workers.

On Thursday, the North denounced the Chinese and Russian moves to join the U.N.'s condemnation of its December rocket launch.

Some experts speculate Pyongyang's reference to an enhanced nuclear test means the North may now be capable of testing a weapon made from highly enriched uranium, rather than the plutonium devices used in the two previous tests.  In 2010, North Korea revealed a laboratory used for attempts to enrich uranium.

The successful December missile launch in harsh winter conditions was a boon to Kim and likely boosted North Korea's confidence, said Reiss, who pointed to marked advances in the North's nuclear program with assistance from outside actors, including Iran.

He declined to speculate on exactly when the next nuclear test may take place other than to say "no one but the North Koreans know what the timing will be."

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: NVO from: USA
January 26, 2013 5:55 PM
NK technology is a farce and sham. They just don't understand technology. Wiley Coyote ordering a rocket from Acme would have better luck. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In Response

by: Krish Mano from: india
January 27, 2013 6:01 AM
North Korea should restrain at the same time South Korea and USA should try to sort out differences with North Korea they should give assurance to North Korea regarding its external security.

by: Anonymous
January 26, 2013 2:17 AM
NK is a sock puppet dynasty that has gone on for far too long.

by: Michael from: USA
January 25, 2013 4:47 AM
Sanctions are forcing radical solutuions. Korean state leadership should follow international guidelines to feed the people. THE VICTIMS are potential activists that are slowly being starved to death

by: Dr. Hizukami Maru from: Japan
January 25, 2013 3:13 AM
actually, my friends, this is a Japanese problem. But we are so weak and feeble that it is pathetic. we admire only one nation in the world and it is not the USA, it is Israel, and the more we learn of them the more we admire them. but i don't think we can ever be like them unfortunately, we are pitiful weak and we are ashamed of our past; we are ashamed of our alliance with Nazi Germany, that is why i think we are so pathetically weak today.

by: Terrence Healy from: California
January 24, 2013 6:50 PM
We should demonstrate how we can blow up their missle as it launches or redirect their guidence system so it hits their capital.
This is a long term mess created and funded by China and the Soviet Union. Short term solution, wait until the Leader and all his Generals assemble. Use a small Yield Neutron Weapon, End of Problem. Same in Iran. The world will be grateful, their own people will be grateful, we won't pay for it later. Currently the people of Syria are paying for the Soviet Unions blatant disregard of the use of military on Civilians. Something will have to be done at some point. Not taking action today will endanger millions of lives in the future. Our Government needs to stand up and free the world from The Tyranny that is left in the world.

by: equalearth from: global
January 24, 2013 5:58 PM
the USA, France and GB carried out hundreds of nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s that's the precedent.....equalearth@twitter
In Response

by: kpitikos from: Las Vegas Nv
January 26, 2013 4:05 PM
You said that the usa must stand and and free the world from this tyranny. YUO ARE RIGHT< let start from the Zionazis in Tel Aviv and The saudi Kingtom family . . Kowait Saba Brothers JORDANIAN kingdome. U. Emirates, And this is just few of them.. . OH SH>> I FORGET THEY ARE ALL OUR FRIENDS and we protect them.
In Response

by: kpitikos from: Las Vegas NV
January 26, 2013 3:55 PM
Terrence Healy.
Go and ask how grateful the people of IRAQ and Afghanistan are After the USA destroyed their country.
Ask them how grateful they are after the USA killed more than a million of their people included women and children.and the only excusse was that the 9/11 terrorists.. The only truth is the terrorists was from Saudi Arabia

by: LevonTostig
January 24, 2013 5:34 PM
But, North Korea, Iran... Venezuela... these are tiny countries. They can't hurt us.

It's as stupid now as it was when it was first said.

by: Nataly from: USA
January 24, 2013 5:29 PM
well, we have incompetent Kenyan Islamic apostate ruling over us... we are propping up a sadistic Islamic terrorist organization in Egypt... no one trusts us any more... France Britain and Germany can't suppress an impulse to throw up every time they hear the name Obama... so why shouldn't the Koreans threaten us?? ""WHATS THE DIFFERENCE???""

by: OldNassau from: Florida, USA
January 24, 2013 4:57 PM
In George Orwell's 1984, three world powers use each other to maintain their own regimes.. Kim uses threats against external enemies to maintain his own totalitarian power structure.. He would never attack the US: our retaliation would destroy him. I doubt if North Korea would ever even invade South Korea: Can you imagine the North's tightly controlled government trying to absorb fifty million South Koreans familiar with blue jeans, MacDonalds, and Democracy? Russia and China love having a mad dog barking at the US, but wold never let it out of its kennel.
In Response

by: Suven from: China
January 26, 2013 2:56 AM
There is a ocean between the USA and North Korea ,the North Korea need to live in their country ,they live in their stlye .why the others ask them to do this or not to do that at the othe side of the world.

by: kafantaris from: USA, Ohio
January 24, 2013 4:53 PM
We ain’t scared of North Korea.
Nobody should be of these fools.
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