The world continues to reel in the wake of North Korea’s apparently successful third nuclear test, which has received near-universal condemnation that promises to be as effective as the last time North Korea was universally condemned.
First the truly terrifying news, according to the SCMP Pyongyang has warned that the nuclear test is only the beginning:
A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang said the test was the “first response” to what it called US threats. “Second and third measures of greater intensity” would be taken if Washington continued its hostility.
A North Korean diplomat, speaking at a disarmament forum in Switzerland, echoed this sentiment:
“The U.S. and their followers are sadly mistaken if they miscalculate the DPRK would respect the entirely unreasonable resolutions against it. The DPRK will never bow to any resolutions,” Jon Yong Ryong, first secretary of North Korea’s mission in Geneva, told the Conference on Disarmament, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
If the North Korean regime expected its foes to be overawed by its latest strides towards nuclear armament, it may have been disappointed:
South Korea’s government said in a statement that Tuesday’s nuclear test, “poses a direct challenge to the whole international community as well as an unacceptable threat to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.”
It said the government would stand firm in that it “will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea” and added that it will “also accelerate expanding its military capability, including deploying at an early stage its extended-range missiles, currently being developed, which cover all of North Korea.”
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security,” Obama said.
Obama on Tuesday said that “the danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community,” adding that the U.S. would work with the international community to “pursue firm action.”
While both the US and South Korea were apparently informed that the test would be taking place beforehand, neither had much chance of preventing it. China, also informed of its neighbours plans, has been left with egg on its face after strongly urging the DPRK to abandon its nuclear program in January:
“China has been humiliated,” according to Andrei Lankov, a veteran analyst of North Korea based in Seoul’s Kookmin Unversity. That could prompt a change in Beijing’s approach, he said.
“This time, China explicitly warned North Korea against conducting the test, but they were ignored,” Landov added. “A Chinese government newspaper said two weeks ago that in the case of a nuclear test, China might significantly reduce its aid to North Korea.”
According to the SCMP, China has already reprimanded DPRK in private, though public pronouncements by the Chinese government have been somewhat muted:
China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi immediately summoned the North Korean ambassador Ji Jae-ryong for a formal protest warning that Beijing was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” to the test.
Yang also told the envoy to “stop any rhetoric or acts that could worsen situations and return to the right course of dialogue and consultation as soon as possible”, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, China joined with the other permanent members in “strongly condemning” the nuclear test, though some debated how much influence China has over an increasingly belligerent North Korea:
Suzanne DiMaggio, an analyst at the Asia Society in New York, said North Korea had embarrassed China with the test. “China’s inability to dissuade North Korea from carrying through with this third nuclear test reveals Beijing’s limited influence over Pyongyang’s actions in unusually stark terms,” she said.
Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank, said: “The test is hugely insulting to China, which now can be expected to follow through with threats to impose sanctions.”
William Hague, foreign secretary of the UK, called on China to put maximum pressure on the North Korean regime.
Sung-Yoon Lee, writing in the Washington Post, outlined how further sanctions could be used to humble Kim Jong-un:
An international network of shadowy officials, banks and front companies sustains the North’s ruling clan, military and internal security forces — even though the North’s national economy collapsed nearly 20 years ago with the loss of Soviet subsidies — and it enables the regime’s dependence on nuclear blackmail and illicit earnings. The regime’s overdependence on such financial dealings makes it particularly vulnerable to U.S. tools designed to counter international money-laundering. Washington has long had the wherewithal to enforce financial regulatory measures against North Korea’s illicit activities and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; it has lacked the political will to do so. U.S. officials should immediately strengthen sanctions against North Korean banks, businesses and individuals that illegally finance Pyongyang or help the regime commingle and conceal its black-market income within “legitimate” trade. To this end, the Treasury Department should designate the North Korean government a “primary money-laundering concern” under Section 311 of the Patriot Act.