North Korea is at it again, testing nuclear weapons, in express violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. This is the fifth such test, and indicates a progression of increasingly stronger weaponry as the dictatorship’s fledgling nuclear program develops expertise over time. The move has already been met by condemnation throughout the international community.
The first indications of this unfortunate event came when seismic activity with a magnitude of 5.3 on the Richter scale was detected near Punggye-ri, Kilju County, very close to the location of the previous nuclear tests. The magnitude of this measurement suggests the North Koreans detonated a 10 Kiloton bomb, which is twice the power of their previous attempt. By comparison, the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 15 and 21 Kilotons respectively, and the Soviet Union once tested a 50,000 kiloton bomb, which was the largest ever detonated.
Though still very small compared to state of the art weaponry, clearly a 10 kiloton bomb is still an extremely dangerous device, and could do serious damage to a city or strategic target, if deployed. The North Koreans are struggling to develop ICBM technology, and have had numerous setbacks, but they are likely to achieve success in time. And when they do, and pair the two technologies, the North Koreans will represent a very serious threat to the stability of the region, and the world.
The greatest concern is, of course, the inscrutable and seemingly irrational nature of the North Korean regime. For decades the behavior of the North Korean dictatorship has been characterized as brutal, extreme, and volatile. The leadership suffers from a group think mentality, where individual dissent is severely punished. This is of great concern, because in such an environment, it’s much less likely for individual voices of conscience to come forward and decry a rash decision to deploy a nuclear device.
China, a nation greatly concerned with economic growth and its position in the global marketplace and community of nations, has had a closer relationship with the small communist regime for a long time now, and will likely play a critical role in containing and talking down their neighbor from the brink, should a crisis develop. However, they haven’t succeeded in keeping the tiny nation from experimenting with nuclear weapons to date, and this is a noteworthy concern. The United States and the United Nations would do well to work closely with China on the increasingly volatile North Korean dilemma.