North Korea is now threatening the US that it will launch a nuclear tipped missile if we don’t sit down with them at the negotiating table.
The North, meanwhile, stepped up its threats aimed at Washington, saying it could fire a nuclear-tipped missile unless the United States acts to resolve its standoff with Pyongyang, the Yonhap news agency reported from Beijing.
Even if Pyongyang is confirmed to have nuclear weapons, experts say it’s unlikely the North has a bomb design small and light enough to be mounted atop a missile. Their long-range missile capability also remains in question, after a test rocket in July apparently fizzled out shortly after takeoff.
“We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes,” Yonhap quoted an unidentified North Korean official as saying. “That depends on how the U.S. will act.”
The official said the nuclear test was “an expression of our intention to face the United States across the negotiating table,” reported Yonhap, which didn’t say how or where it contacted the official, or why no name was given.
But Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, said the nuclear test would make the possibility of direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang more difficult, Yonhap reported.
The U.N. Security Council was weighing a U.S. proposal for potentially crippling sanctions. Washington has asked the council to adopt a measure that would aim to curb the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, prohibit all trade in military and luxury goods, and crack down on illegal financial dealings.
South Korea said that it believed the North had exploded a nuclear device on Monday, but officials claimed that it might take up to two weeks to confirm whether the test was successful.
It’s easy to see the danger in someone like Kim Jong-il having access to nuclear weapons. Not only could he wave them around, so to speak, in an effort to force his will on the rest of the world just as he is right now, he could sell them on the blackmarket to al Qaeda who could do a hell of a lot of damage to the American people.
Now, the question is how do we handle this situation? Once a leader, despotic or not, gets nukes, our options are immediately limited. The UN will do nothing. It’s a paper tiger and everyone including Kim Jong-il knows that. Aside from war, the only reasonable option here is for China to assert pressure by threating to cut NoKo off from the oil and food it desperately needs.
Captain Ed sees war as an option that’s becoming much more real:
[W]e may be left with no choices other than war and blackmail. China can’t seem to keep control of its client any more, and South Korea’s attempts at appeasement disappeared in a seismic boom two days ago. I would expect that the next attempt to launch a missile will get much more attention from the American military, and that may just take us into a conflict that we should have been ready to fight in 1994 — and which Bill Clinton was prepared to fight, at least publicly, until Jimmy Carter interfered with American foreign policy and forced Clinton to back down.
Update: Mario Loyola at The Corner explains some of the reasons that KJI wants nukes:
North Korea sees an existential threat in the United States not because we called them nasty names, but because the rising tide of global free trade (which in its immediate region depends vitally on the straight-jacketing security structure of America’s bilateral alliances, and which has produced the terrifyingly successful South Korea) is suffocating the regime to death. And Kim knows that when he ever falls from power he is more likely to wind up in prison than on the French Riviera like the dictators of yesteryear.
Nukes are his trump card. It will give him an eternal free hand with which to extort money from the West (much better than begging for charity, and having to accept conditions) and begin intimidating his neighbors — chiefly Seoul — into making important political concessions. Kim sees in this nuclear coercion both an eternal subsidy for his Stalinist system and perhaps even the reunification of the peninsula under his leadership (or some other scheme that preserves his power) which would be to fulfill the existential purpose of his regime.
Update II: James Lewis at The American Thinker informs us that KJI may already be sharing his nuke knowledge with Iran:
It’s expensive and difficult to develop nuclear weapons. Iran is reportedly having trouble with its uranium refinement at Natanz. However, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard officers were seen observing Kim’s recent multiple missile launch, including a botched ICBM launch aimed at Hawaii. It makes sense that the Iranians and North Koreans have been working together on missiles and nuclear weapons.
If so, Tehran’s technical problems with enrichment may be solved very soon. Tehran has the oil money and the NoKos have the technology. Together, they are surely speeding things up. They are in a hurry, and the faster they move, the sooner they will have an unbeatable weapon.
Last year a leaked National Intelligence Estimate estimated that Tehran will have nukes in ten years. Israel has been more realistic, putting it at 2007-2009, with a point of no return coming in less than a year. In fact, Iran may already have smuggled enough enriched uranium from North Korea. It may already have enough material for one or two bombs. If that is the case, even an embargo on North Korean trade will not stop the sharing of technology with the fanatics of Tehran. You can teach engineering techniques over the internet. Drug routes can be used to smuggle experts, uranium, and detailed designs. We know that Kim has contacts in the Asian underworld for his forged dollars and other criminal enterprises.
James ends his post on this very ominous note:
As long as civilized nations fail to present a unified front, we can only rely on the personal courage and moral clarity of leaders like George W. Bush and Tony Blair. But we cannot be sure that we will always be led by men and women of their caliber: Blair is leaving office within a year, and Bush in two years.
The future of the world therefore hangs by a thread. Where are the adults?