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Monday, May 25, 2009

A madman with his finger on the nuclear button?

Despite their best efforts, South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia working together could not persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon development program. Earlier today, North Korea announced that it had successfully conducted its second nuclear test. The recalcitrant Communist state is also rumoured to have test-fired three short-range, surface-to-air missiles, launched toward the sea between North Korea and Japan.

In what appears to be another dramatic example of American foreign policy failure, the test defied international warnings and appeared to have caught South Korea and the United States off guard—so much for the much vaunted U.S. foreign intelligence capability. Authorities reported that the test triggered an earth tremor with a magnitude of between 4.5 and 5.3 and estimate that the test had a power of one kiloton of explosives—a fraction of the size of the American bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945.

Agreements resulting from a 2007 summit meeting called for South Korea to spend billions of dollars to help rebuild the impoverished North Korea’s dilapidated infrastructure. And there was hope that this aid—along with economic concessions made by the United States—would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, which carried out its first successful nuclear test in Oct. 2006.

As with North Korea’s 2006 weapons test, this latest test is the product of decades of diplomatic failure, spread over several presidencies. American spy satellites saw the North building a nuclear reactor in the early 1980s, and by the early 1990s the C.I.A. estimated that the country could have one or two nuclear weapons.

This genie is definitely out of the bottle. North Korea has become the world’s eighth nuclear-armed power and marks the first time nuclear arms have been under the complete control of a madman.

© 2009 Russell G. Campbell

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