Intervene to stop nuclear testsNorth Korea has once again played its infamous nuclear test wild card. It announced Sunday that it could conduct a “new form” of nuclear testing to protest the United Nations Security Council statement last week condemning Pyongyang’s recent bout of ballistic missile launches. In a statement released by its Foreign Ministry, Pyongyang said it was prepared to retaliate “for self-defense” should Washington continue to isolate and pressure North Korea through the UN Security Council. However, it remained silent on a package of dovish proposals for aid and cooperation to build a lasting framework for trust and peace from South Korean President Park Geun-hye during her visit to Germany last week.
The North’s Foreign Ministry condemned joint Seoul-Washington military exercises as a war drill designed to occupy Pyongyang and threatened to carry out nuclear deterrence in various forms. It said it was readying follow-up steps that could be “beyond our enemy’s imagination.” North Korea detonated a nuclear device in October 2006, another in May 2009 and a third in February last year. Intelligence sources in Seoul and Washington believe Pyongyang has completed the necessary procedures to carry out another nuclear test near its northern border.
Through its three earlier tests, North Korea claims it has made headway in securing a functioning atomic arsenal that would fit into rockets capable of reaching as far as the mainland United States. Experts and the international community can no longer brush aside North Korea’s nuclear weapons progress as a mere bluff or its tests as exhibitionist stunts. The UN and international responses should not stop at rhetoric and economic sanctions. China responded strongly to last year’s nuclear test and may seriously reconsider its policy toward its traditional ally. North Korea would have to brace for international actions of an unprecedented level and even have a fallout with its only economic patron. If China turns away, the fragile Pyongyang regime could be in jeopardy. Pyongyang must be fully aware that it could be headed toward its doomsday if it pushes the red button on the fourth test. Washington should clearly articulate that it is done with “strategic patience” with Pyongyang. The members of the six-party nations for denuclearization should meet quickly to choose a course of action to stop North Korea from going through with another nuclear test.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 31, Page 30