Pundits were aflutter Tuesday when North Korea pushed ahead with its third nuclear test on Tuesday despite strong warnings from the international community. The North is now rapidly on its way to becoming a nuclear-armed country, they noted, oblivious to even to strictures from China, on which it relies for energy and food.
Some pundits believe the latest test has changed the entire game plan for South Korea and its allies. "North Korea conducted a nuclear test just two months after it launched a long-range rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, demonstrating its capacity of firing an intercontinental ballistic missile," said Choi Kang at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. "We need to acknowledge that we can no longer control North Korean aggression with existing strategies and must come up with more realistic measures."
North Korea's nukes would be outside the control of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty just like India's and Pakistan's. "By conducting its latest nuclear test, North Korea has made it clear that it intends to overcome any obstacle to becoming a nuclear power," said Shin Beom-chul at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.
And Kim Hee-sang at the Korea Research Institute for Strategy said, "The mere fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons could lead to a breakdown in the military balance between the North and South." Kim warned that Seoul could end up with in the shadow of a nuclear threat from North Korea.
Some experts fear that South Korea could find itself diplomatically isolated if the U.S. and China recognize North Korea as a nuclear power. India and Pakistan have been virtually recognized as nuclear powers by the U.S. and China since their nuclear tests back in 1998. "After focusing on sanctions for some time, the U.S. and China could suddenly shift gears into containment mode," said Park Byung-kwang at the Institute for National Security Strategy. "We need to prepare for this."
The South Korean government faces mounting calls to shift its North Korea policy. "We need to show a determined attitude that we will not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea under any circumstances," said Choi at IFANS. "We need to go back to the drawing board in our approach to North Korea."