North Korea Threatens To Build Up “Nuclear Deterrence”

North Korea reacts angrily to UN Resolution 2087
January 23rd, 2013
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North Korea reacted bitterly to yesterday’s UN resolution condemning its December satellite launch, pledging to strengthen both military and nuclear capabilities.

In a swift rejection of the U.N. warnings,  North Korea today said that it will take “physical counteraction” to bolster its “nuclear deterrence both qualitatively and quantitatively.”

The defiant statement from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry came just hours after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning rocket launch as a violation of an existing ban against nuclear and missile activity.

UN Security Council Resolution 2087 imposes sanctions on North Korea’s space agency, targets the illicit smuggling of sensitive items and updates a list of nuclear and ballistic missile technology prohibited for transfer in or out of the country. It also reiterates that a peaceful, diplomatic and political resolution to relevant issues should be sought, and advocates the resumption of the Six-Party talks.

While today’s wasn’t the first time that North Korea has issued such angry rhetoric following a UN Resolution, under the new leadership of Kim Jong Un it throws a direct challenge to both newly inaugurated President Obama and incoming South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Reacting to the news today, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov said,

It is regrettable that after the sixty years of confrontation both the UNSC and the DPRK are still locked in the security dilemma and prefer to exchange invectives and threaten the region with prospects of resuming the Korean War. Despite the “generally balanced” tone of the recent UNSC resolution on North Korea, warnings to take “significant action” will only lead to promises “to boost and strengthen defensive military power”.

More sanctions will only lead to less dialogue because sticks work only when carrots are also on offer. In the situation where military action is inconceivable and diplomacy does not work, the usage of soft power might be more useful.

Following Obama’s 2008 arrival at the White House North Korea conducted a rocket launch similar to the latest one and when similar UN sanctions were applied, quickly followed it with a nuclear test. At a time when Obama had promised an “open hand” to North Korea, Pyongyang’s one-two blow undermined the prospects for any short-term engagement between Washington and Pyongyang.

Having shown a visiting U.S. delegation advanced uranium enrichment capabilities in late 2010, it has long been worried that any new nuclear test would seek to showcase the latest technologies. As such, any third nuclear test could risk Pyongyang showcasing a uranium based weapons technology to demonstrate advances in bomb-making.

Yonhap today reported that reacting to the warning, South Korea has stepped up monitoring of tunnels at North Korea’s nuclear weapons test site in its northeast. And citing recent satellite imagery, Seoul intelligence officials said Pyongyang “is ready to detonate a nuclear device on a few days notice, but the decision to go ahead with the test will be a political one.”

A senior U.S. envoy arriving in South Korea for talks with South Korean officials warned that another nuclear test would be a “mistake”. Glyn Davies explained to Kyodo News, ”We think that would be a mistake. We call on North Korea not to engage in any further provocations.”

To date, Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, the first in 2006 and the second in 2009.

The U.S. and North Korea’s neighbors fear Pyongyang’s ultimate goal is to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could target the west coast of the U.S., but it is not believed to have mastered the technology yet.

North Korea argues that it needs nuclear weapons to deter what it views as a “hostile” U.S. policy and long-range rocket technology so it can launch satellites into space.

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.

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