Why We're Not Freaking Out about North Korea
This morning a 5.3-magnitude earthquake in North Korea has been ruled as North Korea's fifth nuclear test. We were scrambling to confirm. South Korea's Ministry of Defense did about an hour and half after the tremor. Now North Korea says it's indeed a successful nuclear test.
Seoulites haven't worried about North Korea's weapons testing as much as the world does. We see a greater play by the regime to perform these stunts for their domestic audience. But what draws more concern about this test is that it is the second this year when tests have occurred at least 3 years apart. It's also the largest to date. The first test was back in 2006. And it comes after this week's SCUD missile tests and last month's SLBM tests. So there's been more frequency between tests and it looks like North Korea is advancing technically. Still, another nuke test may not signal a more aggressive North Korea, but a leadership desperate to maintain control of its population. North Korea faces a defection crisis among its elites, drier coffers from sanctions and a citizenry sneaking more and more information from overseas. Seoulites know that North Korea most likely builds rockets and nukes not to shoot, but to keep in a display case for its citizens. But the problem is once those display models actually turn into working ones, then you really get some real enemies.
You can't laugh as much these days of failed rockets blowing up in the sky or falling somewhere random in the ocean. Once the technology reaches the capacity of striking mainland U.S., that's when everyone will freak out. Because the sleeping Washington giant will wake up. But perhaps it would be better to find a mechanism other than the stalled 6-party talks (giving N. Korea candy) or sanctions (taking away its candy) to bring about a real change. A cornered North Korea is not going to give up the only thing it's got to hold on to their scepter of power.
So as usual, we're not freaking out about any imminent danger. And nor should the rest of the world. However, we should be freaking out about not having a long term plan or alternatives being discussed in the public dialogue.