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Global tensions increased dramatically when North Korea announced on October 9 it had successfully conducted an underground nuclear test. Immediately the rogue nation received international condemnation, with the United States, Britain, Japan and even China leading the way in a united voice of criticism.
U.S. President George W. Bush stated that the test poses a threat to global peace and security, and “deserves an immediate response” by the United Nations Security Council.
The council had warned Pyongyang not to follow through with the test only two days earlier.
All 15 members of the Security Council denounced the test. “No one defended it, no one even came close to defending it,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.
“I was very impressed by the unanimity of the council…on the need for a strong and swift answer to what everyone agreed amounted to a threat to international peace and security” (AP).
On October 14, the council unanimously agreed on a resolution that would bar the sale or transfer of missiles, warships, tanks, attack helicopters and combat aircraft, as well as missile- and nuclear-related items to the North Korean government. Further, the resolution demands that no future tests be carried out, and calls for UN member nations to inspect cargo going to or from the country.
In response, huge rallies were held by the communist regime, proclaiming that the sanctions are nothing less than a declaration of war. Pyongyang’s government-controlled news bureau, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), released a statement that “the resolution cannot be construed otherwise than a declaration of a war,” adding that it would deal “merciless blows” against any country that dares to violate its sovereignty.
North Korea’s UN ambassador said the Security Council should be congratulating his country instead of passing “useless” resolutions or statements. Meanwhile, Iranian state radio blamed the nuclear test on the U.S., proclaiming that the test was “a reaction to America’s threats and humiliation.”
KCNA said the test was a complete success, with no leak of radiation. North Korean scientists “successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions,” the agency said, adding that this was “a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation.”
Further, KCNA stated, “It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the…people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability. It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it” (ibid).
Many are concerned that North Korea may attempt to launch a second nuclear test. Satellite images taken days after the first blast indicated such a possibility, with activity observed around at least two other sites.
However, one U.S. defense intelligence official cautioned, “This activity could represent prep for a second test, but it doesn’t necessarily mean definitively that it is,” (l’express).
Speaking to a Chinese envoy, Kim Jong-il said North Korea would not conduct an additional test—that is, unless the United States “harassed” his country. He added that his country is prepared to return to negotiations over its nuclear program, but only if Washington is willing to lift sanctions.
More than one week after the incident, the U.S. confirmed that a nuclear explosion did occur. This officially makes North Korea the eighth country to join the “nuclear club,” which consists of the United States, Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and China. (Many believe Israel possesses nuclear capability as well, though the nation has never publicly made such a claim.)
With this addition to the “club,” some questions naturally come to mind: Will North Korea “play by the rules”? Will it use its newfound power as a means of geopolitical influence? Can the world live peacefully with a nuclear North Korea?