While perhaps some analysts might quietly hope this happens so they can gain intelligence, I think the bigger issue is what does the US and international community do if it does. So what if we gain more insight into their program? We are likely to have more problems with the north when a lack of response from the US and international community further emboldens them. It will be an internal propaganda boom for the regime – they test in the face of sanctions and nothing but verbal condemnation occurs. Ironically, we may have created the right conditions for a test. There is the perception that we have "maxed out" international sanctions and that nothing more can happen to the regime. But even more importantly the regime perceives that in time (perhaps this summer, next fall there will be pressure to re-engage diplomatically – Madam Park will want to give her trust politick a chance so conducting a nuclear test so close to the missile launch has created a kind of inoculation for the north – eventually the ROK and US will come back to the table and the north will manipulate the situation for a time to gain political and economic concessions. So while the analysts may hope to gain a window into the program – the bigger "so what" is - so what will we do about it?
January 30, 2013
Nuclear Test Could Open Window on North Korea
WASHINGTON — The world is warning North Korea against going ahead with its third nuclear test, but inside the American intelligence community, some officials are quietly hoping it happens. A test could give them their first real view in years into whether the North has made significant progress toward a weapon that could threaten the United States or its allies.
Since the North’s last test, in 2009, during President Obama’s first months in office, the United States has lost much of its visibility into what a former senior intelligence official says is on the cusp of becoming a “runaway program.”
Inspectors have been ejected from the country, and new facilities to make nuclear fuel have appeared. And after the North warned last week that it would now conduct a “higher level” test “targeted” at the United States, Kurt M. Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, conceded that “we don’t know the kind of test that is anticipated.”
Now the hope is that an underground blast will answer several mysteries. Can the North Koreans produce a bomb out of uranium — a program they invited a visiting American nuclear scientist to glimpse two years ago — as well as the plutonium bombs that they exploded in 2006 and 2009? Can they make a warhead small enough to fit atop one of the long-range missiles they successfully tested last month?
In short, is it possible that the country that gained a reputation as the Keystone Kops of nuclear nations, setting off nuclear explosions that sputtered and missiles that crashed into the sea, has actually gotten its act together to the point that it now may pose a significant threat?
“It’s clear that there is now an expectation that this test could cross a threshold and yield data we haven’t had,” said Michael Green, a senior director for Asian affairs in the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. “We know a lot about their programs, but not the most important part: how far along are they? And we won’t know that until they test.”
The test could show, he said, “whether they can build a bomb that can approach Hiroshima or Nagasaki levels, and that would tell us a lot about how far they have proceeded on weaponization.”
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