Sunday, December 03, 2006

All bets are off in Korean crisis

All bets are off

Oct.14, 2006

WHY DO we get a feeling that the world powers led by the United States at the UN Security Council have their calculations wrong with their agreement on a draft resolution mandating wide-ranging sanctions against North Korea over its declared nuclear test? Not that North Korea has a great record of contributing positively to the international community, and Pyongyong has indeed openly declared that it has conducted a nuclear test and that it would not hesitate to engage in nuclear war if it is subjected to sanctions. Wouldn't it be ironic that the big powers went after North Korea in a frenzy only because Pyongyang claimed it has conducted a nuclear test and implicitly stated that it is capable of mounting nuclear warheads on missiles?
Doubts are being cast whether North Korea did indeed conduct a nuclear test. According to US intelligence, results from an initial air sampling after North Korea's announced nuclear test showed no evidence of radioactive particles that would be expected from a successful nuclear detonation.
At the same time, the results do not rule out that the North Korean blast was not a nuclear explosion. A final result would be available within days but the initial finding is considered conclusive, according to reports.
Chinese monitoring has also found no evidence of airborne radiation from North Korea's claimed nuclear test.
According to experts, the size of the blast — said to be less than one kilotonne, far smaller than the 12.5 kilotonne bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 — makes it theoretically possible for North Korea to have tested conventional explosives underground and put out a claim that it was a nuclear test.
The absence of any evidence of radiation from the claimed test is also a source of scepticism over the North Korean claim. And, many say that the test had failed in contrary to Pyongyang's claim that it was successful.
However, for all practical purposes, it does not really matter to the world powers whether North Korea did conduct a nuclear test or whether it was a success.
When President George W. Bush called for tough action in response to the North Korea claim from the United Nations and North Korea's neighbors, he made it clear he saw little distinction between an actual nuclear test by North Korea and its announcement of one.
"The United States is working to confirm North Korea's claim, but this claim itself constitutes a threat to international peace and stability," Bush said.
The US position and Friday's agreement on a draft resolution on the crisis triggered by Monday's claim issued by North Korea show that the course of events in the Korean peninsula is headed for confrontation. At this point in time, the world is unsure of the military capabilities of North Korea, but it is a safe assumption that Pyongyang could not only pose a serious military threat in the neighbourhood but also carry out the threat.
Whether true or fake, Pyongyang's nuclear claim is a clear indication that the Pyongyang regime had reached a point where it felt it stood to gain nothing from the stalled six-party negotiations and had to do something drastic to shake the status quo. But, if the nuclear claim proves to be a fake, then Pyongyang has bitten more than it could chew. However, if it is established as true, then all bets are off as to how the crisis would develop.