Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Dangers of North Korea’s Nuclear Test (Op-Ed)

Japan Meteorological Agency′s earthquake and tsunami observations division director points at a graph of ground motion waveform data observed in the morning in Japan during a news conference in Tokyo on implications that an earthquake sourced around North Korea was triggered by an unnatural reason May 25, 2009. (Reuters / Yuriko Nakao)February 12, 2013 (Nile Bowie) - Author’s Note: On February 12, 2013, news surfaced of man-made seismic activity measuring at 4.9 on the Richter scale in North Korea, likely the result of the third nuclear test Pyongyang promised to carry out. The contents of this article examine the various dimensions of the situation, and the consequences it could hold for the region.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have ignited once again, marking the most-unstable period of inter-Korean relations since Kim Jong-un began his tenure in December 2011. Following the successful launch of an indigenous satellite into orbit using a long-range missile in December 2012, the UN Security Council recently tightened sanctions on the DPRK that impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals involved in state companies and North Korea's space agency. Although talk of Pyongyang conducting a highly controversial nuclear test has been in the cards for months, the DPRK has recently threatened to respond to tightened UN sanctions using “stronger measures” than a nuclear test. While bellicose rhetoric is to be expected from Pyongyang, recent statements against the United States and South Korea are unusually high on the richter scale of belligerence. "We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are aimed at the United States," stated North Korea's National Defense Commission.

Pyongyang has also warned of “physical countermeasures” against South Korea if they participate in the UN sanctions against the North, stating, "as long as the South Korean puppet traitors' regime continues with its anti-DPRK [North Korea] hostile policy, we will never sit down with them." Reports claim that North Korea has allegedly been placed under martial law and its people told to “prepare for war” with the South. South Korean sources have reported that Kim Jong-un has issued a secret order to “complete preparations for a nuclear weapons test and carry it out soon.” Seoul-based military sources have also claimed that Pyongyang plans to conduct two simultaneous nuclear tests at once, or in quick succession, based on satellite data monitoring the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

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