February 14, 2013


Pyongyang's Nuclear Logic : Sometimes a Test is Just a Test (Jennifer Lind, Keir A. Lieber, and Daryl G. Press, February 14, 2013, Foreign Affairs)

Like the United States during the Cold War, North Korea has apparently decided that nuclear weapons are central to its national security strategy. With few friends, its conventional military forces outgunned, an economy in tatters, and facing off against a superpower prone to deposing dictatorships across the globe, the Kim regime set about building an operational nuclear arsenal. And just as NATO planned to thwart a Soviet invasion by striking targets in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, North Korea presumably plans to defend itself, should war erupt on the peninsula, by threatening U.S. regional allies and targets in the United States.

North Korea's mission requires small, lightweight warheads, and missiles that work -- and the only way to know that they work is to test them. So far, the weapons have proved unspectacular. The country's first nuclear test, conducted in 2006, was an embarrassment. Pyongyang had told the Chinese that the device would generate four kilotons of explosive power, but it ended up producing less than one. The second test in 2009 fared slightly better, producing between one and eight kilotons, although it is not known what size of a blast the North Koreans had sought. Moreover, Pyongyang has much more work to do before it can boast weapons that will actually fit on its missiles (which have been, themselves, a series of humiliating failures).

Observers in the West who presume that North Korea's behavior must be about signaling should remember NATO and the United States' own experience during the Cold War. The United States understood then that the ability to conduct nuclear operations was the very foundation of a credible deterrence strategy. Today, a sound strategy for dealing with North Korea should not ascribe ulterior motives to acts that the United States once considered rational and routine.

..which is that this explosion once again demonstrated that North Korea has no nuclear capacity.  They've essentially greenlighted a pre-emptive strike on our part, which would be our best way to establish that we're serious about deterrence.
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Posted by at February 14, 2013 3:10 PM

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