North Korea defiance challenges moral authority of nuclear club
When North Korea claimed triumphantly that it had tested its first hydrogen bomb this week, it was roundly and predictably condemned by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and India, countries estimated to possess a combined total of more than 15,000 nuclear warheads.
Pyongyang: When North Korea claimed triumphantly that it had tested its first hydrogen bomb this week, it was roundly and predictably condemned by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and India, countries estimated to possess a combined total of more than 15,000 nuclear warheads.
Non-nuclear powers condemned the test, too, including Japan, the country that was on the receiving end of the only atomic bomb attack in history, the US bombing that ended World War II in the Pacific in 1945.
But while most of the world, East and West, agrees that no one wants North Korea to be an effectively functioning nuclear power, a question that can't be escaped lurks behind the condemnation: How much right do nations have to tell other nations what to do? Moreover, how much of a right do nuclear powers, which have no intention of giving up their own arsenals, have to demand others to give up theirs? North Korea, of course, says none.
In a show of defiance and nationalist pride that is so characteristic of the North, masses of North Koreans filled Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square on Friday, which happened to also be leader Kim Jong Un's birthday, to celebrate their military's new crown jewel. Fireworks and dancing parties were held after the rally.
"This hydrogen bomb test represents the higher stage of development of our nuclear arms," Pak Pong Ju, North Korea's premier, told the crowd, which officials said was 100,000-strong. "It will go down in history as a perfect success and now the DPRK is proud to be ranked among nuclear states possessing hydrogen bombs. The Korean people can demonstrate the stamina of a dignified nation with the strongest nuclear deterrent."
The North's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
With its latest test, which may or may not have been of an H-bomb outside expert opinion remains divided it is treading further down a dangerous, but well-worn, path.
As has been the case with every nation that went nuclear, possession of such weapons is seen by the North's regime as a strategic necessity. That's why decades of pleading with and punishing the North simply haven't worked.
Developing a credible nuclear force is in the long run cheaper for Pyongyang and far more likely to be successful than building and maintaining the massive and highly sophisticated conventional forces that would be needed to deter the United States.
Though mega weapons like the H-bomb have become largely irrelevant to superpower military planners, who now have the technology to conduct precision attacks that are far more effective and less likely to generate universal condemnation, it's the kind of threat that still works for Pyongyang.