North Korea: Is it time to panic about Kim’s nukes?
North Korea seems to have achieved “a level of technology on par with the nuclear powers of the world,” said The Hankyoreh (South Korea) in an editorial. Our northern neighbor claimed that it had conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test last week, successfully detonating a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on a ballistic missile “at will.” The announcement came just hours after the U.S. Geological Survey detected a magnitude-5.3 earthquake near North Korea’s underground nuclear test site—a stronger tremor than those set off by the regime’s previous tests. The response from the international community was swift and strong. The South Korean Defense Ministry said it has prepared plans to take out North Korean missile sites and flatten the capital, Pyongyang, with artillery and ballistic missiles if the North shows any signs that it might fire a nuclear weapon. The U.S. flew B-1 bombers over the South in a show of support for its ally, and President Obama vowed to further tighten alreadypunishing United Nations sanctions on the North.
Sanctions won’t work unless the North’s main sponsor, China, fully commits, said The Korea Times (South Korea). Beijing is a reluctant participant in international talks on the threat posed by Pyongyang, and “it’s highly unlikely that China will give consent to the kind of sanctions that could lead to the collapse” of Kim Jong Un’s regime, such as a total ban on oil shipments to the North. Chinese leaders know that if Kim’s dictatorship imploded, millions of starving North Koreans would seek sanctuary in China, causing “pandemonium on its border.” Still, Beijing doesn’t want North Korea to go fully nuclear, because that could inspire a rival regional power like Japan to follow suit. The international gridlock over the North can only be resolved through dialogue—and “it’s definitely China that holds the key.”
Don’t blame Beijing, said the Global Times (China). North Korea isn’t seeking to arm itself against us. The root cause of North Korea’s behavior is “the reckless military threat from the U.S. and South Korea.” Kim has seen the U.S.’s “brutal overthrow of regimes in some small countries” and he’s realized that nuclear weapons are the only effective deterrent against American aggression. China alone cannot persuade North Korea to change course, as long as Washington keeps “refusing to sign a peace treaty with Pyongyang.”
The North’s “nuclear weapons program has reached an irreversible stage,” said JoongAng Ilbo (South Korea). Denuclearization is no longer feasible, so South Korea must now think about renuclearization instead—that is, bringing back U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. The U.S. pulled its nukes out in 1991 and told us we would be protected by the nuclear umbrella provided by American strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. But that’s no longer a good enough deterrent. With our very existence threatened, we need U.S. nukes deployed on our own soil—and our president needs “the power to authorize” their use.