Updated February. 13, 2013 04:39
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who declared his country a nuclear state by revising the North`s constitution in April last year, soon after his inauguration, pushed ahead with Pyongyang`s third nuclear test Tuesday, as if seeking to confirm his declaration. North Korea conducted the test exactly two months after launching a long-range missile on Dec. 12 last year. The inevitable conclusion is that Pyongyang`s successive provocations shows its aim of using nuclear weapons by loading a nuclear warhead onto a missile if it deems necessary. The Norths nuclear threat started 20 years ago and has since materialized into a real danger.
It is unclear if Pyongyang tested a plutonium bomb Tuesday as in the first and second tests or a highly enriched uranium-based weapon, but the after-effects of the test have been amplified. According to South Koreas military, the explosion from the first test in 2006 was 1 kilotons and the second in 2009 2-6 kilotons, but that from the latest test was an estimated 6-7 kilotons. One kiloton is a massive explosion equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT. Pyongyang announced using a nuclear bomb that was made "smaller and lighter." A major global fear is Pyongyang getting the technology to reduce the weight of its nuclear warhead to less than a ton. If it develops a nuclear weapon that can be launched by a missile, the military balance on the Korean Peninsula will be instantly dismantled. No matter how extensively the South Korean military expands its conventional weapon arsenal, it cannot overcome "asymmetric" military power in its relationship against North Korea with nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. If the Stalinist country adopts a strategy of raising the number of nuclear weapons and striking a balance of terror by matching nuclear weapons of the U.S. with its own, South Korea will become a pitiful strategic pygmy.
North Korean leader Kim, who is leading his country`s nuclear armament, is just 29 years old. His late father pushed ahead with two nuclear tests in the final years of his reign, but failed to develop a useful nuclear weapon before he died. The junior Kim is unlikely to give up nuclear weapons development after conducting the third test Tuesday, four days before the birthday of his father. Pyongyang said in its politburo meeting Tuesday that it will continue firing long-range rockets. If the world fails to stop Kim from developing nuclear weapons now, it will face a rogue state armed with nuclear weapons and missiles in the not-so-distant future.
Three resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council have failed to deter North Korea from its nuclear ambition. Kim completely ignored the councils warning of a "grave measure" if an additional provocation was committed. The council`s five permanent members, who are commissioned to serve as global police, need to wake up and reflect. How can the body deter nuclear arms proliferation if it cannot even punish North Korea, which has openly pursued nuclear armament despite numerous international warnings? With sanctions being a mere formality and warnings hardly effective in preventing North Korea from pursuing nuclear arms, the U.N. Security Council must use means other than conventional measures.
If the North is to be deterred, there is no reason not to apply Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which covers Action with Respect to Threats to Peace, Breaches of Peace and Acts of Aggression. If the council fails to deter the North Korean leader, who has gained further ground through the latest nuclear test as well as the launch of a long-range missile, it will have difficulty pressuring other rouge countries that could potentially possess nuclear weapons, including Iran. The young Kim, who inherited power in a hereditary succession, controls everything in the Stalinist country. The world should also pushfully consider imposing direct sanctions on him.
North Korea is expected to take further action after checking the responses of the U.S. and China. In a confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee John Kerry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he and other senators mentioned Afghanistan 45 times, China 33 times, and Iran 30 times, but North Korea only three times. U.S. President Barack Obama should use his State of Union address set for Wednesday to send a strong warning to Pyongyang. If Xi Jinping, who will be inaugurated as China`s president next month, intends to block North Korea from possessing nuclear weapons, he should send a clear signal to punish Kim Jong Uns act of aggression.
In South Korea, the outgoing Lee Myung-bak administration has displayed incompetence as it helplessly watched the North conduct two nuclear tests earlier over its five-year term. Barring a change in the way of thinking, the incoming Park Geun-hye administration will end up taking a similar course of action. South Korea needs to change the paradigm of its North Korea policy, given that Pyongyangs possession of nuclear weapons is effectively a done deal. To maintain the deterrence of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, Seoul could again consider delaying retaking wartime operational command from Washington slated for 2015. By taking advantage of its position as chair-country of the U.N. Security Council, South Korea should mobilize a strong global response to ensure that North Korea will strongly regret conducting its third nuclear test.