Foreign Policy

Third Time’s the Charm: North Korea’s Nuclear Explosion

The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported a 5.1 magnitude quake on 12 February 2013 in Sungjibaegam, North Korea. No, this wasn’t an earthquake but a nuclear detonation. A third one, in fact, by the rogue nation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The regrettable nuclear test not only violates international law but also undermines international peace and regional security.  Additionally, it is safe to say that North Korea has not become a strong and flourishing nation, as hoped. By continuing to work on its nuclear and missile system program, North Korea is starving its citizens, galvanizing international fury, and increasing the proliferation risk in the region.

North Korea was party to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) but withdrew in 1993 after declaring that it had created a nuclear weapon in 2009. Although North Korea is years away from creating a missile with a range long enough to carry a nuclear warhead, we must be wary of any tests, and technical advances.

Under international law, DPRK has violated several Security Council resolutions, including 1718, 1874, and 2087, all enacted to sanction DPRK economically and condemn its nuclear detonations. Additionally, the most recent nuclear test breaches North Korea’s commitment under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks.

But now what?  This question is the same one that we have been asking ourselves way before North Korea decided to stop playing by the rules. If we are playing baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. But when it comes to the international nuclear nonproliferation establishment, there is little that can be done.

Do we continue to condemn the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with economic sanctions? Do we resort to a military strike? Or do we just shrug our shoulders and proceed with business as usual?

DPRK announced to China that there would be a fourth and fifth test unless the United States agrees to talks. We are still technically at war so should we just agree to negotiate? This nuclear test was a response to the December condemnation by the West of North Korea’s rocket launch.

It’s our turn at bat and North Korea is waiting. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama stated, “The regime in North Korea must know, they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.”

We must be firm in our approach to North Korea but it’s not just our approach that needs reinforcement. We must continue to decrease our nuclear arsenal and work not only bilaterally with Russia on nuclear arsenal reduction but also multilaterally with China. The nuclear nonproliferation regime must continue to close loopholes and make sure that the international regime continues to be preserved and peace could be established.