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Korea Vows to Conduct Nuclear Test

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006

The North Korean foreign minister announced Tuesday his country will conduct a nuclear test, the Associated Press reports.

We managed to get our hands on the English version of the nuclear test announcement put out by North Korea's state-controlled media organ, the Korean Central News Agency. The release doesn't appear to be posted on the KCNA's Web site as yet.

Reading the announcement gives one a sense of the regime's propaganda style, and the paranoid, almost desperate, voice that characterizes it:

DPRK Foreign Ministry Clarifies Stand on New Measure to Bolster War Deterrent

Pyongyang, October 3 (KCNA) -- The Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea issued the following statement Tuesday solemnly clarifying the DPRK stand on the new measure to be taken by it to bolster its war deterrent for self-defence:

The U.S. daily increasing threat of a nuclear war and its vicious sanctions and pressure have caused a grave situation on the Korean Peninsula in which the supreme interests and security of our State are seriously infringed upon and the Korean nation stands at the crossroads of life and death.

The U.S. has become more frantic in its military exercises and arms build-up on the peninsula and in its vicinity for the purpose of launching the second Korean war since it made a de facto "declaration of war" against the DPRK through the recent brigandish adoption of a UNSC resolution.

At the same time it is making desperate efforts to internationalize the sanctions and blockade against the DPRK by leaving no dastardly means and methods untried in a foolish attempt to isolate and stifle it economically and bring down the socialist system chosen by its people themselves.

The present Bush administration has gone the lengths of making ultimatum that it would punish the DPRK if it refuses to yield to the U.S. within the timetable set by it. Under the present situation in which the U.S. moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK have reached the worst phase, going beyond the extremity, the DPRK can no longer remain an on-looker to the developments. The DPRK has already declared that it would take all necessary countermeasures to defend the sovereignty of the country and the dignity of the nation from the Bush administration's vicious hostile actions.

The DPRK Foreign Ministry is authorized to solemnly declare as follows in connection with the new measure to be taken to bolster the war deterrent for self-defence:

Firstly, the field of scientific research of the DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed. The DPRK was compelled to pull out of the NPT as the present U.S. administration scrapped the DPRK-U.S. Agreed Framework and seriously threatened the DPRK's sovereignty and right to existence. The DPRK officially announced that it manufactured up-to-date nuclear weapons after going through transparent legitimate processes to cope with the U.S. escalated threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure. The already declared possession of nuclear weapons presupposes the nuclear test. The U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test, an essential process for bolstering nuclear deterrent, as a corresponding measure for defence.

Secondly, the DPRK will never use nuclear weapons first but strictly prohibit any threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear transfer.  A people without reliable war deterrent are bound to meet a tragic death and the sovereignty of their country is bound to be wantonly infringed upon. This is a bitter lesson taught by the bloodshed resulting from the law of the jungle in different parts of the world.  The DPRK's nuclear weapons will serve as reliable war deterrent for protecting the supreme interests of the state and the security of the Korean nation from the U.S. threat of aggression and averting a new war and firmly safeguarding peace and stability on the Korean peninsula under any circumstances. The DPRK will always sincerely implement its international commitment in the field of nuclear non-proliferation as a responsible nuclear weapons state.

Thirdly, the DPRK will do its utmost to realize the denuclearization of the peninsula and give impetus to the world-wide nuclear disarmament and the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. As the DPRK has been exposed to the U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail over the past more than half a century, it proposed the denuclearization of the peninsula before any others and has since made utmost efforts to that end.

The U.S., however, abused the idea of denuclearization set out by the DPRK for isolating and stifling the ideology and system chosen by its people, while systematically disregarding all its magnanimity and sincerity. The ultimate goal of the DPRK is not a "denuclearization" to be followed by its unilateral disarmament but one aimed at settling the hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and removing the very source of all nuclear threats from the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity.

There is no change in the principled stand of the DPRK to materialize the denuclearization of the peninsula through dialogue and negotiation.  The DPRK will make positive efforts to denuclearize the peninsula its own way without fail despite all challenges and difficulties.

What is the signficance of this? Robert Kaplan's analysis of the meaning of North Korea's recent missile tests in his cover story (subscription required) in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly also could be applied to N. Korean nuclear tests.

"What should concentrate the minds of American strategists is not Kim's missiles per se but rather what his decision to launch them says about the stability of his regime," Kaplan writes. He examines the stability of the Kim regime using a "seven phases of collapse" model from a U.S. military analyst in Korea:

Phase One: resource depletion;

Phase Two: the failure to maintain infrastructure around the country because of resource depletion;

Phase Three: the rise of independent fiefs informally controlled by local party apparatchiks or warlords, along with widespread corruption to circumvent a failing central government;

Phase Four: the attempted suppression of these fiefs by the KFR once it feels that they have become powerful enough;

Phase Five: active resistance against the central government;

Phase Six: the fracture of the regime; and

Phase Seven: the formation of new national leadership.

"North Korea probably reached Phase Four in the mid-1990s, but was saved by subsidies from China and South Korea, as well as by famine aid from the United States. It has now gone back to Phase Three," Kaplan writes.

As regimes like Kim's get closer to collapse, they tend to act increasingly rashly. "Kim Jong Il's compulsion to demonstrate his missile prowess is a sign of his weakness," Kaplan says. "One of Kim's main goals in so aggressively displaying North Korea's missile capacity is to compel the United States to deal directly with him, thereby making his otherwise weakening state seem stronger. And the stronger Pyongyang appears to be, the better off it is in its crucial dealings with Beijing, which are what really matter to Kim."

Unfortunately, a collapse of the Korean regime would be a mixed blessing, to say the least. It could make the situation in Iraq look like a model of stability, by comparison:

Stephen Bradner, a civilian expert on the region and an adviser to the military in South Korea, has thought a lot about the tactical and operational problems an unraveling North Korean state would present. So has Colonel Maxwell, the chief of staff of U.S. Special Operations in South Korea. "The regime in Pyongyang could collapse without necessarily its army corps and brigades collapsing," Maxwell says. "So we might have to mount a relief operation at the same time that we'd be conducting combat ops. If there is anybody in the UN who thinks it will just be a matter of feeding people, they're smoking dope."

Maxwell has conducted similar operations before: he was the commander of a U.S. Army Special Forces battalion that landed on Basilan Island, in the southern Philippines, in early 2002, part of a mission that combined humanitarian assistance with counterinsurgency operations against Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf Group, two terrorist organizations. But the Korean peninsula presents a far vaster and more difficult challenge. "The situation in the North could become so messy and ambiguous," Maxwell says, "that the collapse of the chain of command of the KFR could be more dangerous than the preservation of it, particularly when one considers control over WMD."

The Kaplan article is a good read, if you can get your hands on it.

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