Posted March. 31, 2017 07:15,
Updated March. 31, 2017 07:18
The Ministry of National Defense said Thursday that North Korea may be preparing for a new kind of nuclear test different from its five previous ones. Many experts project that the North will likely conduct a much more powerful nuclear test than in the past to show off its completion of nuclear weapons development. They mention the possibility that Pyongyang will simultaneous conduct multiple nuclear tests, boosted fission weapons tests, nuclear tests, and intercontinental ballistic missile launches. Some say that the North is virtually in a countdown to a nuclear test, as signs have been detected suggesting the preparations near completion.
North Korea, in a foreign ministry spokesman’s statement on Wednesday, claimed that if a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, the United States will be held “wholly accountable” for it. The General Staff of the North Korean military also warned of its “special operation” and “preemptive strike.” The North was overreacting to the fact that U.S. special forces troops and strategic weapons systems participated in a joint South Korea-U.S. military operation. However, we should not dismiss the statements as mere rhetoric, as Pyongyang is capable of striking U.S. military bases not only in Japan but also on Guam.
If the North succeeds in the sixth nuclear test, it will likely solidify its status as a nuclear possessing state. The Wall Street Journal in a Sunday editorial proposed a regime change in North Korea as a U.S. policy goal probably because of its perception that the North’s denuclearization is impossible as long as Kim Jong Un stays on power. The argument is persuading that that U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will have an opportunity to discuss the issue at their planned summit in April.
There are controversies over whether a pre-emptive strike on the North is appropriate because it could be escalated into a full-fledged war. However, James Woolsey, former CIA chief, pointed to the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack by the North that could kill 90 percent of Americans. He called for readiness to pre-emptively strike the North by any means possible including the use of nuclear weapons. Pre-emptive strikes and the pursuit of a regime change in the North are matters of extreme caution because of the risks and burdens. However, if Washington considers an option that could have a direct impact on the Korean Peninsula, it is inevitable for Seoul to make a strategic decision, too. We cannot pass decisions on urgent self-defensive measures and a shift to offensive policy toward the North over to the next administration. If Pyongyang conducts its sixth nuclear test before Seoul’s presidential election in May, the current administration should resolutely deal with it responsibly.