I can think of any number of things I’d rather have read this morning (CNN):
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) — North Korea claimed it conducted a successful underground nuclear test Monday, according to the country’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
CNN’s Dan Rivers, speaking from the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, said the key question now was what China — which effectively allowed North Korea to exist economically — would do.
The apparent nuclear test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. (1:36 a.m. GMT) in Hwaderi near Kilju city, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing defense officials.
Reports of the claimed test triggered global condemnation.
Senior U.S. officials said the United States is consulting with allies around the world and would push for sanctions Monday at a 9:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. GMT) meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York.
For months now, Kim Jong Il has been popping in and out of the headlines — threatening, posturing, and generally looking like an unhinged, overtired younger sibling that the big kids keep ignoring.
“Look at me, dangit! I’m important!”
Setting off an underground nuclear bomb is one sure way to get noticed.
So what is it, exactly, that this maniacal man wants? Selig Harrison writes in Newsweek that he wants recognition and respect, and that to some degree at least, the United States provoked him:
On Sept. 19, 2005, North Korea signed a widely heralded denuclearization agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Pyongyang pledged to “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.” In return, Washington agreed that the United States and North Korea would “respect each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations.”
Four days later, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sweeping financial sanctions against North Korea designed to cut off the country’s access to the international banking system, branding it a “criminal state” guilty of counterfeiting, money laundering and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.
According to the article, the US said the sanctions were “coincidental”… which seems pretty unlikely. How does one sign an agreement and then just happen to impose massive sanctions immediately thereafter? The entire situation is pretty opaque to me.
Whatever Kim Jong Il’s reasons, though, I’d say he got his wish. He has the world’s (relatively) undivided attention this morning.
Now what? Because if he didn’t like the financial sanctions, I can’t imagine the response to a nuclear weapons test is going to be any less painful.
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Update: Josh Marshall has an analysis up which includes some historical perspective. (His permalink isn’t working. You may have to scroll.) Among other things, he describes this as “a strategic failure of the first order”. Can’t easily disagree with that.
Meanwhile, Captain Ed tries to look at things from the here, now, and what might happen next perspective…. like a regional arms race.
I also recommend James Joyner’s comprehensive post this morning, which includes multiple sources and his take on them.
All in all, I think it was really only a matter of time until this came to fruition. The Clintononian “carrot / stick” combination was never going to hold permanently… but closer to home, Polimom suspects the GOP has found their reactive sound byte to the Foley scandal.
The shouting from the sidelines is about to get MUCH louder…