Or so it seems CNN would like us all to believe this morning after North Korea detonated it’s second nuclear weapon.
For now, however, the North’s nuclear arms program is not a major security threat, analysts say. The country has yet to build an effective bomb or develop an effective delivery system to a target country. Video Watch South Korea’s reaction to the nuclear test Ã‚Â»
Last year, North Korea acknowledged producing roughly 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of enriched plutonium — enough for about seven nuclear bombs.
But analysts say North Korea is years from having a weapon it can put atop a long-range missile like those in the U.S., Chinese or Russian arsenals.
“I know a lot of people may think, ‘Oh no, a nuclear test. Does that mean war, conflict in the Korean Peninsula?'” said Jim Walsh, an international security analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The answer is ‘no.'”
We seem to hear these same kinds of statements every time they move a little closer. In the past, when they would attempt but fail to test fire a long-range missile, “experts” and “analysts” would tell us not to worry, after all the test failed, and besides, they don’t have a nuke to put on it anyway. Then they tested the missile more successfully. And the “experts” said not to worry because it still wasn’t 100% successful, and besides, they still didn’t have a nuke. And then they tested a nuke. But the “experts” said not to worry because it wasn’t entirely a successful test and, besides, it was a very small nuke. And then they tested a second nuke, this one 10 to 20 times larger than the first (based on first estimates). But of course now we get the explanation from Mr. Walsh: OK, sure, they’ve tested a nuke and a long-range missile, but they haven’t put the two together yet. So no reason to worry!
We see, on a regular basis, the same kind of reasoning applied to the Iran case: They test a missile, experts say not to worry because it didn’t go as far as it might have and that they don’t have a bomb to put on it anyway. They produce lots of nuclear materials, experts say not to worry because they haven’t actually made a bomb yet. (We went through that stage with North Korea in the 1990s, by the way–i.e. no worries, they’ve only got fuel, not a bomb. But they had amply demonstrated motive, means, and intent, as has Iran. And we see where North Korea has ended up.)
The biggest problem here is that there seems to be complete reluctance on the part of…well, everyone to acknowledge that these explosions have gone a long way towards exploding the international nonproliferation regime. Two of the major cases for the regime to deal with have been North Korea and Iran. The regime failed to stop North Korea. Failed. When your goal is to stop a country from getting nukes, and that country turns around and gets nukes, and then defiantly tests them right in from of you, you failed. And the regime is in the process now of slowly failing in the case of Iran as well, following the same pattern–i.e. ineffective negotiations and sanctions coupled with self-delusion and denial of progression towards the realization of a threat with each new missile test, bomb test, or act of defiance.
At this point, with the way things are going, one of two things will happen: 1) Iran will get a nuclear weapon. 2) Israel will launch a preemptive strike against Iran. (Of course, depending on the effectiveness of an Israeli strike, Iran might still end up with nukes anyway.) In either case, the international nonproliferation regime will have proven itself once and for all to be entirely incapable of doing what it was meant to do–i.e. stop the proliferation of WMD, nuclear weapons in particular. That will trigger dangerous regional nuclear arms races and the increased possibility of preemptive wars both large and small around the globe.