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With Missile Launch And North Korea Renews Nuclear Specter

"...the chances of North Korea carrying out a nuclear explosion test are slim as the consequences would become too serious for the impoverished, isolated country to overcome..." - Paik Hak-Soon.
by Park Chan-Kyong
Seoul (AFP) Jul 07, 2006
North Korea's threats to take "stronger actions" have raised the specter of another long-range missile launch or a nuclear test, but it will think twice before choosing the nuclear option, analysts said Friday.

The communist state on Wednesday fired a series of missiles including a Taepodong-2 model thought able to reach Alaska and possibly Hawaii, but which quickly crashed into the sea.

The self-declared nuclear power said afterward it "will have no option but to take stronger physical actions of other forms, should any other country dare take issue with the exercises and put pressure upon it."

Huh Moon-Young, a senior researcher at the state-financed Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said the North seemed to be serious when it spoke of "stronger actions."

"This is not merely a bluff. I am afraid there might be some specific measures the North is thinking about," Huh said.

"It can be a second Taepodong-2 or a nuclear explosion test," he told AFP.

Robert Dujarric, a Tokyo-based North Korea watcher, said that if North Korea has a nuclear device, it is likely debating intensely whether to go ahead with a test, trying to gauge the potential reaction from key ally China.

"I'm sure -- assuming the North Koreans have a testable nuclear device, and I don't know that they do -- that they're saying, 'Is this the time to test?'" Dujarric said.

"The disadvantage is that the Chinese won't like it," he said. "But Pakistan and India both tested nuclear weapons and now they have better relations with the US and are taken more seriously."

But the risks of carrying out a nuclear test would likely be far greater than the missile launch. A string of reports last summer -- similar to the speculation before this week's missile launch -- said the North would carry out a nuclear test, but none happened.

Paik Hak-Soon, a senior researcher at the private Sejong Institute, said the North might fire a second Taepodong-2 after fixing technical flaws that led to the apparent failure of the first one.

"But the chances of North Korea carrying out a nuclear explosion test are slim as the consequences would become too serious for the impoverished, isolated country to overcome," he said.

Paik and Dujarric agreed that Pyongyang's threats were general posturing aimed at strengthening its position rather than a specific threat.

"They see it that if you want to get something from President Bush, you have to look tough, mean and threatening," Dujarric said.

"They believe the US is negotiating with Iran because Iran is strong -- Iran has not cowed down to the US and as a result the Iranians have basically won the first round. And the US is negotiating with the insurgents in Iraq because they're strong, not weak," he said.

North Korea agreed in general terms last year to give up its nuclear drive in exchange for security guarantees and aid. But it walked away from six-nation nuclear disarmament talks in November after the United States imposed financial sanctions over the regime's alleged money-laundering and counterfeiting.

A draft United Nations resolution backed by Washington would slap new sanctions on Pyongyang.

Professor Kim Yeon-Chul of Korea University's Asiatic Research Centre noted that Pyongyang stressed it still wants to seek a diplomatic solution to the stand-off with the United States over its nuclear programmes.

"North Korea's nuclear and missile capability has been ever growing under the Bush administration," Kim Yeon-Chul said.

"This raises questions about the moralistic approach in diplomacy by Washington, under which it is considered a sin to sit with any evil forces for talks," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links

North Korean Official Repeats Threat Of Physical Measures
Seoul (AFP) Jul 08, 2006
A North Korean official repeated demands for Japan to halt sanctions imposed following Pyongyang's missile tests and threatened "stronger physical measures" in response, Yonhap news agency reported late Saturday.

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