By Tom Bannister
North Korea has continued its sustained offensive against the Chinese diplomatic corps’s Spring Festival, ruining any chance of resumption of relaxation by announcing that they may be conducting further nuclear tests later this year. This of course comes after Chinese diplomats were sent scrambling for aspirin and antacids on Tuesday after news of the rogue state’s third nuclear test shocked them from their post-CNY-feast stupors.
Reuters reports that a source, with top-level access to both Pyongyang and Beijing, has informed them that the North Koreans have helpfully told the Chinese that they are planning to conduct 1-2 more tests this year. To make the news even more indigestible the tests will be much larger than previous ones. “It’s all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year“, the Reuters source said.
The ‘rogue state”s aims are to force the US into talks and to establish full diplomatic relations with it, something that the US refuses to do until the DPRK’s nuclear program ends. Instead the US and its allies want to impose further sanctions on the rogue state. A Washington spokeswoman responded to the third test by saying that Pyongyang “is not going to achieve anything in terms of the health, welfare, safety, future of its own people by these kinds of continued provocative actions. It’s just going to lead to more isolation”
China is the DPRK’s last remaining friend: Chinese investment in the neighbouring country has increased over the past decade and China is by far North Korea’s largest trading partner. The PRC has been less supportive of harsh sanctions in the past, eager to keep the DPRK in a ‘goldilocks‘ state – so that it is ‘just right’: neither too powerful to wage war, nor too unstable as to provoke meltdown and a flood of refugees across its borders. Recently however, after several signs of ultra-‘rogueness’, such as the sinking of the Cheonan, and last December’s long-rang rocket launch, it has supported UN sanctions. Further nuclear tests may well strain the friendship to its breaking point.
In related news (hopefully not too related), the website 38 North reports that the DPRK may also be readying to launch another rocket this year, from a different launch site than the one used in December. Using satellite imagery, the site analyses changes at the Tonghae launch site, not used since 2009, that show ‘major developments’ at the site over recent months. They also speculate that Iranian’s may be helping the North Koreans develop the site and that it may be used to launch a new larger type of rocket.