Month: May 2009

Discarding tired assumptions about North Korea

Discarding tired assumptions about North Korea

North Korea’s latest nuclear test has rekindled the old debate among U.S. foreign policy “owls”–we may leave aside the hawk and dove purists–over how to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Dovish owls argue that Kim Jong Il knows his country is a near-failed state. Therefore, he would gladly give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for a generous package of U.S. aid and security guarantees. In this reading, Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test is a demand for attention from a new U.S. administration it wants to do business with.

Punishing North Korea won’t work

Punishing North Korea won’t work

Despite the promise of change, the Obama administration has started to address North Korea just as the Clinton and Bush administrations did–accusing it of wrongdoing and trying to punish it for its transgressions. As Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test demonstrates, the crime-and-punishment approach has never worked in the past and it won’t work now. Instead, sustained diplomatic give-and-take is the only way to stop future North Korean nuclear and missile tests and convince it to halt its nuclear program.

What if North Korea were the only nuclear weapon state?

What if North Korea were the only nuclear weapon state?

North Korea’s nuclear test will almost certainly fuel skepticism about the nuclear disarmament agenda. If no country has nuclear weapons, skeptics will ask, then how can “nuclear renegades” such as North Korea be deterred or dissuaded from getting a nuclear weapon and how can they be disarmed if they get one? For most opponents of nuclear abolition this argument ends the debate.

The North Korean nuclear test: What the seismic data says

The North Korean nuclear test: What the seismic data says

According to early reports, Monday’s North Korea event certainly seems like a deliberate explosion in the right place. However, it was too small to be a successful Hiroshima-class crude explosive device, by a factor of three or four. The reported estimates of Richter magnitude spread from 4.5-5, and the standard conversions to explosive yield suggest a yield of 2-6 kiloton-equivalents of TNT. Most of the latest Richter magnitude estimates have come in the low half of the 4.5-5 range, so it seems likely that the yield was 4 kilotons or smaller.