Secretary of State John Kerry touched down in South Korea earlier today to renew support for South Korea and regional allies as North Korea gets more desperate for food and cash. The boisterous rhetoric from the North is pretty much out-of-control. That said, Kerry – and maybe many others – can’t seem to agree if North Korea is a nuclear power or not.
… the US, South Korea and the international community were “all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power”.
Also this morning, Kerry…
… noted that North Korea has tested three nuclear bombs, but said this was “very different” from possessing a “miniaturised” warhead.
However, he acknowledged that every nuclear test brought North Korea “closer” to the ability to mount a warhead on a missile, the true hallmark of a nuclear-armed power.
This begs the question, where is the line? I would have assumed if North Korea is able to make nuclear bombs and test three of them, they would officially join the club. The DPRK’s nuclear bomb tests have been small in comparison to the first tests by the United States, Russia and the U.K., but the most recent test – if it really was nuclear – was two months ago today and registered as a 5.1 magnitude earthquake.
Kerry mentions the warhead missile as being the “true hallmark” of a nuke power, but I’m wondering why the definition has changed and the bar has been moved outward as compared to tests in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s when one big bomb – not delivered by a missile – defined a nuclear power. If North Korea can load a nuke into an aircraft and drop it somewhere – anywhere – and have it go off … I’d say they were in the club. Kerry on the other hand seems to think they don’t cross the line until they can “miniaturize” a nuke (a harder thing to do) and deliver the payload via an accurate missile (even harder).
Look, the three North Korea tests were estimated to be .5 kilotons, 2.35 kilotons and 6 kilotons respectively. Again, those are small in comparison to the first United States test of 20 kilotons. (The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were about 16 kilotons.)
This post really is not a dig at Kerry, but more of a post pointing out we just don’t draw lines in the sand anymore. We’re – for a lack of a better phrase – wishy-washy when it comes to diplomatic relations these days. Nobody wants to say anything conclusive, or lay things out on the table.
Back in September, I wrote the following as it would apply to the Middle East and our dealings with Iran. Do you think the same would apply to North Korea becoming really stupid?
… if there is a “small” nuclear attack against United States interests, Israel or another allie in the region, I do not think the Obama administration – or even the United States people – would know how to respond. I’m not even sure we would respond with military force.
Any major attack – including conventional, nuclear or biologic – against the United States or allies in the region will not be from a defined, established government in the region. The State of Iran wouldprobably never send a missel into Israel, and if they did, it would be blamed on an outlier group who was not affiliatedwith the government. In other words, it would be a terrible tragedy that was some sort of mistake. They would be sorry. Somehow, a radical Islamic fundamentalist group – an outlier – got control over a weapon and used it. The official government leaders would be ashamed. They would promise to root out the evil in their country. The diplomats would go to work again.
If North Korea was able to explode a small-yield 1 kiloton bomb somewhere in South Korea and it killed 1,000 people, what do you think would happen? Would the international community move with overwhelming force against the people who have been oppressed by a Communist dictatorship? Certainly they can be considered victims and many will say they should not suffer the consequences.
What if the leadership in North Korea is betting on that? Your comments please…