North Korea to China: Two more nuclear tests this year

posted at 8:41 am on February 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

If you liked the way the new year started in North Korea, you’re gonna love 2013.  Reuters reports this morning that Pyongyang has told China it will conduct one or even two more nuclear tests this year and another long-range missile mission.  They want to break up the six-nation talks and force the US to negotiate directly with the Kim regime:

North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it is prepared to stage one or even two more nuclear tests this year in an effort to force the United States into diplomatic talks with Pyongyang, said a source with direct knowledge of the message.

Further tests could also be accompanied this year by another rocket launch, said the source who has direct access to the top levels of government in both Beijing and Pyongyang.

The isolated regime conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing global condemnation and a stern warning from the United States that it was a threat and a provocation.

“It’s all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year,” the source said, adding that the fourth nuclear test would be much larger than the third at an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT.

The tests will be undertaken, the source said, unless Washington holds talks with North Korea and abandons its policy of what Pyongyang sees as attempts at regime change.

Were we pursuing a policy of regime change?  We’d probably like that, but that sounds more like paranoia.  During the Bush administration, that seemed much more the case, as the direction of US policy recognized that North Korea had already gone nuclear, and that the issue was now the leaders with their fingers on the button. Remember Bush’s “axis of evil” remark?  The Obama administration has taken a much softer tone while trying to keep the six-nation talks in process, and not having any more luck at that than Bush.

Ted Galen Carpenter argues at the Washington Post that we should stop trying to undo the nuclearization of North Korea and learn to live with it:

For years, we’ve tried carrots and, more often, sticks with the Hermit Kingdom, to little avail. Even the 1994 agreement between Washington and Pyongyang that temporarily froze Kim Jong Il’s plutonium program did not really constrain the regime — it merely shifted to a parallel uranium-enrichment program. And North Korea has conducted two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

It’s time for a new approach. After all, the only thing more dangerous than a North Korea with nuclear weapons is a nuclear-armed North Korea with which the United States has no productive relationship. The nation might become a supermarket for nuclear technology, weapons components and even fully assembled nuclear weapons, available to any purchaser. Washington and its allies need to accept that it may be too dangerous to try to isolate a nuclear power instead of trying to establish a constructive relationship.

In a scenario with no good options, we may have to learn to live with a nuclear-armed North Korea. …

Hawks will cry, “Appeasement!” But we can’t lose perspective. North Korea’s embryonic nuclear arsenal and slowly improving missile capabilities cannot directly menace the American homeland. The United States has thousands of sophisticated nuclear warheads that are generations ahead of anything the North can muster. Pyongyang’s leaders would have to be suicidal to assault the United States. Although members of North Korea’s elite are brutal and ruthless, they aren’t that crazy. What strategists call “primary deterrence,” or preventing an attack on U.S. shores, remains as effective and credible as ever.

In other words, we can still go MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), the containment strategy that prevailed in the Cold War.  While that isn’t really an option with Iran, which is pursuing its nuclear weapons with non-rational goals in mind, it might be with Pyongyang.  However, Carpenter is wrong to assume that North Korea can’t threaten the US just because we can destroy them in return, and we may not really be their target.  Japan has more to fear from a nuclear North Korea than the US, and I doubt they’re as sanguine about MAD as Carpenter seems to be.

The question will be whether simply normalizing relations with Pyongyang through direct negotiations will solve the problem, as Carpenter argues.  I’d guess that North Korea will not be satisfied until the US packs up and leaves South Korea to defend itself, and perhaps Japan as well.  That’s why it would be a very bad idea to end the six-nation-talks approach while the Kim regime rattles its sabers, and keep the pressure where it belongs.  After all, if they are as rational as Carpenter assumes, we have nothing to fear from taking that approach.


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Stop bothering, and let the Koreas nuke each other. My Hyundai is out of warranty anyway.

Archivarix on February 15, 2013 at 8:49 AM

North Korea to China: Two more nuclear tests this year

…THAT TAKES BA11L…OR SOMEONE’S NUTS!

KOOLAID2 on February 15, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Under Obama, North Korea went nuclear.

BigGator5 on February 15, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Q: Why can’t China get these cowboys under control?

A: They don’t want to.

john1schn on February 15, 2013 at 8:52 AM

With Kerry and hagel at the helm what could wrong?

Legacy…. nk has nukes…..

cmsinaz on February 15, 2013 at 8:54 AM

NO FOOD TO NORTH KOREA !!!

Jabberwock on February 15, 2013 at 8:54 AM

Under Obama, North Korea went nuclear.

BigGator5 on February 15, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Bush actually.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_North_Korean_nuclear_test

sharrukin on February 15, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Just tell them that they get to use one – just one.

OldEnglish on February 15, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Further tests could also be accompanied this year by another rocket launch, said the source who has direct access to the top levels of government in both Beijing and Pyongyang.

We should show them who’s the boss, send in a drone and take that puppy out when it’s 20 feet off the launch pad.

Unfortunately our prez would rather send them GPS coordinates for all of our missile silos to demonstrate we mean them no harm.

The Wimpy Doctrine.

fogw on February 15, 2013 at 8:59 AM

If anyone needs to go MAD, it’s South Korea, no?

I have an idea. Let’s buy Pakistan’s nukes, give them to South Korea, and leave the DMZ.

TexasDan on February 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM

We should hold China responsible. The are like the master/owner and NKor is like the pit bull.

VorDaj on February 15, 2013 at 9:05 AM

I’m more worried about drones and them being armed in this country than I am a nuke from a starving third world country.

http://www.washingtonguardian.com/drones-home

The sheriff’s department hasn’t armed its drone, although the ShadowHawk can be equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher and a 12-guage shotgun. The prospect of armed drones patrolling U.S. skies has alarmed some lawmakers and their constituents. More than a dozen bills have been introduced in Congress and state legislatures to curb drone use and protect privacy.

President Barack Obama was asked Thursday about concerns that the administrations believes it’s legal to strike American citizens abroad with drones and whether that’s allowed against citizens in the U.S. If not, how would he create a legal framework to help citizens know drone strikes can’t be used against them?

**There’s never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil,” the president said, speaking during an online chat sponsored by Google in which he was promoting his policy initiatives.

**built in disclaimers abound in this statement.

PappyD61 on February 15, 2013 at 9:06 AM

PappyD61 on February 15, 2013 at 9:06 AM

If armed drones are used internally, doesn’t that mean you have the right to purchase stingers – as per the Second Amendment?

OldEnglish on February 15, 2013 at 9:09 AM

Q: Why can’t China get these cowboys under control?

A: They don’t want to.

john1schn on February 15, 2013 at 8:52 AM

Exactly.

They could shut these asshats down in a day.

BallisticBob on February 15, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Oh, this is just peachy. Another nuke arms race coming up soon. Expect S.Korea and Japan to test nukes this year.

tommy71 on February 15, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Norks are pushing there luck,and there getting bolder,
especially with the Nuking of US video,a week ago or so!!

canopfor on February 15, 2013 at 9:26 AM

The problem is MAD requires that the leadership of both sides either caring at least a bit for those they lead or believing that they personally are vulnerable. Krazy Kim the Third doesn’t give a flying <expletive> about his countrymen, and I somehow doubt he believes he’s vulnerable.

Steve Eggleston on February 15, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Expect S.Korea and Japan to test nukes this year.>

tommy71 on February 15, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Strongly doubt Japan will build a nuclear weapon anytime soon. Not that they couldn’t, but there would be intense internal political resistance.

DarkCurrent on February 15, 2013 at 9:34 AM

If anyone needs to go MAD, it’s South Korea, no?

I have an idea. Let’s buy Pakistan’s nukes, give them to South Korea, and leave the DMZ.

TexasDan on February 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Japan might not like that much, and it’s probable the ChiComs will “encourage” their pit bull to commit murder-suicide so that neither half of Korea is able to challenge it.

Steve Eggleston on February 15, 2013 at 9:37 AM

NORK’s have concluded it’s better to negotiate with the Obama administration right now than the six nation consortium or future American administrations. That’s why they’re cranking up the pressure now, right after inauguration, because they fully recognize that, once we’ve caved, it’ll take a couple of years to pick us clean in bilateral talks (money, Pacific retreat, sacrifices of Taiwan and Japanese defense alliances, money, other guarantees of future weakness, and money).

This is a direct result of the “after the election, I can be more flexible” attitude of the President towards entrenched foreign tyrannies. He, personally, bears responsibility for these tests and only a moron (or Joe Biden) would suggest we “learn to live” with a nuclear North Korea. Caving now will mark only the beginning of our 2013-2016 struggles to maintain peace and our alliances in the Pacific. This is a very big deal.

MTF on February 15, 2013 at 9:38 AM

North Korea conducted a nuclear test. The next day our rat-eared wonder holds the SOTU and declares that we are going to unilaterally get rid of 30% of our nuclear arsenal. What kind of message do you suppose that sends? Particularly when you have a truly despicable SecDef nominee like Chuck Hagel.

Happy Nomad on February 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

With great power, comes great responsibility. Fail to stop the robber when you have the chance, and you find your uncle killed.

It’s laughably pathetic how America holds up Spider-Man as a hero, let alone a superhero, as a great guardian of New York, and yet, fail to abide by him as a role model in real life.

We have the power to stop the North Korean regime, to save the lives of Koreans starving to death, to prevent needless destruction in South Korea and Japan. Will it be expensive? Yes. Will Americans die for it? Yes. Does that matter? No – because it’s the right thing to do.

Same goes for Iran and Syria.

solatic on February 15, 2013 at 9:58 AM

“productive relationship?” Really? With even a casual overview of North Korea’s history and savagery of it’s regime to suggest any country can have a “productive relationship” with the NorKs demonstrates Ted Galen Carpenter(D-WaPo) is unfit to have an opinion.

DANEgerus on February 15, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Let’s send Madeline Albright back with a new basketball.

The thing with North Korea is they are like a control test in a lab.
They get out of line just to see how crap the U.S. will put up with.
They are setting off nukes and sending scientists to Iran and can’t even get a sternly worded letter from the Smart Power crew.

NeoKong on February 15, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Why is it that liberals NEVER learn from history when it comes to letting dictators acquire powers or weapons of war. The fact that “they can’t threaten the US” (which is willfully ignorant and naive) is not the point. Yet they keep going down the same path every time.

search4truth on February 15, 2013 at 11:00 AM

North Korea conducted a nuclear test. The next day our rat-eared wonder holds the SOTU and declares that we are going to unilaterally get rid of 30% of our nuclear arsenal. What kind of message do you suppose that sends? Particularly when you have a truly despicable SecDef nominee like Chuck Hagel. – Happy Nomad on February 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

I know a great way to get rid of 30% of our nuclear arsenal. Use that 30% on North Korea and Iran.

SC.Charlie on February 15, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Both South Korea and Japan have advanced cruise missile technology. I’d love to see the North Koreans wheel out that ICBM rocket only to have it disappear.

SC.Charlie on February 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM

China: Oh, realllly?…

mojo on February 15, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Don’t believe all you read in Wikipedia.

Under Obama, North Korea went nuclear.

BigGator5 on February 15, 2013 at 8:51 AM
Bush actually.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_North_Korean_nuclear_test

sharrukin on February 15, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Actually Clintons SOS, Madam ‘Scary Face’ Albright got the NorKos a ‘free’ nuclear reactor along with food and free oil. Carter gave them a year’s supply of food and 500 million tons of oil to get Kim Jong Il to stifle.
We’ve been playing patty-cake with the Kim Jong line for a long time. But Republicans at least have them labeled correctly as part of The Axis of Evil.

If this is kept going long enough and Japan gets too nervous they’ll spool up their science and engineering sectors towards fabrication of some nuclear weapons and they have one in a New York minute.

Missilengr on February 15, 2013 at 3:06 PM

We’ve been playing patty-cake with the Kim Jong line for a long time. But Republicans at least have them labeled correctly as part of The Axis of Evil.

Missilengr on February 15, 2013 at 3:06 PM

I agree. I don’t think Clinton, Bush, or Obama have been serious enough about either North Korea or Iran. They play games but have no intention of ever acting.

sharrukin on February 15, 2013 at 3:10 PM