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
x
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

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Thinkingoutloud from: USA
January 24, 2013 4:46 PM
It seems to me the answer is easy... declare North Korea part of China.. and throw in a piece of the China sea with it to help absorb the related costs.

In Response

by: Thinkingloud from: USA
January 25, 2013 12:22 AM
Yeah and then we'll just continue doing business with China after that happens right? That'd make things less easy for us.


by: Gene from: San Clemente, CA
January 24, 2013 4:45 PM
I would take their threat as a war threat. Hope we have to guts like Israel and make a preemptive strike... and soon!


by: Anonymous
January 24, 2013 4:45 PM
This coming from a pimply faced leader that is addicted to porn and video games. What does the rest of the civilized world expect from a nation state that starves it's citizens and jails entire families for speaking out against it's officials. Funny how his father denounced western society but his final ride was in a coffin on top of a state owned and restored 1962 Lincoln Continental.


by: Dewayne from: St Louis, Mo. USA
January 24, 2013 4:39 PM
Well one things for sure, you don't have to worry about our President Obama doing anything about and I think that's part of the problem all around the world!

Comments page of 2
 Previous    

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid