S.Korea May Need Its Own Deterrent

      May 26, 2009 12:37

      North Korea said Monday it "successfully" conducted another underground nuclear test. Despite warnings and efforts by the international community to dissuade it, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006 and a second test now. It also launched three short-range missiles. The same day, the state-run news agencies reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had sent a telegram of condolence to former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun's family.

      The U.S. and South Korean governments sensed an artificial seismic wave measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale at around 9:45 a.m. on Monday in Kilju, North Hamgyong Province. The first nuclear test in 2006 created a seismic wave measuring 3.6. The one-point difference on the Richter scale signifies at least a 10-fold increase in the intensity of explosion. North Korea's nuclear test created a seismic wave around 0.9 points stronger than the original test. U.S. officials say the size of the first nuclear test was equivalent to 1 kiloton of dynamite, while the second test is estimated equivalent to more than 2 to 3 kilotons. The power of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan just before the end of World War II in 1945 was around 15 and 22 kilotons.

      The long-range rocket North Korea launched on April 5 flew 3,200 km. The effective range had almost doubled compared to the first missile launched in 1998, which flew a distance of 1,620 km. This year, in other words, North Korea has succeeded in more than doubling the power of its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. It is still too early to conclude that the nuclear weapon and long-range missile capabilities are in their final stage of completion. The power of its nuclear weapon lags far behind the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima 64 years ago, while in three separate tests, its long-range missile fell far short of the 7,000 km to 8,000 km range considered the standard for intercontinental ballistic missiles. But if North Korea continues its tests without any limitations, we will soon face a country that has a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

      It would then be in a completely different class from South Korea. It would want to be treated as a nuclear power by the international community, and U.S. treatment would also change. North Korea has already demanded to be treated as a nuclear state during the six-party talks and through other channels. If it was, it would no longer try to recognize South Korea as an equal and would attempt to alter the fate of the South by touting its superiority on the Korean Peninsula.

      U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement accusing North Korea of "directly and recklessly challenging the international community." The South Korean government said the nuclear test was an "intolerable act of provocation." The U.S. and South Korean governments, along with Japan, plan to pursue a new resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. The nuclear test is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which bars the North from conducting further tests, necessitating new measures from the council.

      But UN sanctions so far have not been effective, and North Korea has scoffed at them. China, which holds the key to deciding on the intensity of sanctions, was angry about the first nuclear test, calling it a "reckless" act. But following the second nuclear test, the Chinese government in foreign ministerial talks in Hanoi, Vietnam said it would "objectively monitor the situation." North Korea is believed to have given the U.S. and Chinese governments advance notice of its nuclear test. This means that North Korea is considering the resumption of talks with Washington by playing a strategic game.

      South Korea faces the most pressing threat due to North Korea's nuclear weapons and ICBMs, but has its hands tied behind its back and is incapable of a substantial response due to its commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime signed with the U.S. government. North Korea claims its rationale for having nuclear weapons is to defend itself. South Korea too now requires a deterrent. If the day comes when the republic and the lives of its citizens are threatened, we must take on the problems posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons and ICBMs by realizing that we can no longer accept the limitations of international treaties.

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