Monday, October 09, 2006

The North Korean Bomb.

Pretty much everyone believes that North Korea did actually detonate an atomic device over the weekend. The obvious question is whether it's a weaponised device. In other words do the North Koreans actually have something that can be stuck on the end of a missile or dropped from a plane. It's one thing to make something that will blow up in a test chamber, it's quite another to make something that will blow up on demand after sitting around for months and can be transported by something other than a cargo ship.

Beijing has condemned the test, which is no surprise. North Korea's action has threatened regional stability, including increasing the possibility that Japan and/or South Korea may embark on nuclear programs of their own. The last thing the Chinese need is more military competition, as they already have enough trouble figuring out how to deal with the US advantages in technology. Japan taking a more aggressive stance on the use of military force would complicate matters greatly. The North Koreans may live to regret the effects this has on their relationship with China, which is the closest thing they have to a patron. Chinese aid to North Korea is substantial, and reductions in that aid will effect all areas of North Korean society.

Oddly enough one of the big losers as a result of the test may be Iran. The North Korean test is sure to bolster the position of those in the Bush administration who favour military action to stop Iran building a nuclear device, either directly or via support of possible Israeli action against Iranian nuclear sites. Unlike North Korea the Iranians are not in a position to directly militarily threaten US allies and interests. Backing the current insurgency in Iraq is another matter.

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