Right now from D.C. to Seoul, politicians and diplomats are scurrying about trying to figure out how to react to North Korea's most recent nuclear antics. And that is the problem - REACTION. This just another shot across the bow by the North Koreans, flexing their (still forming) nuclear muscles. I will leave the technical analysis for the experts (see The Bulletin below), but it is safe to say that much of the the world is (over)reacting .
U.S. President Obama made a brief statement on the day of the test that was a succinct and measured response. We can only hope that President Obama will not employ the sketchy rhetoric of his predecessor. He is, however, under tremendous pressure to show "strength"; no matter what he says, the North Koreans will be unimpressed at best.
The most important thing that President Obama can do right now is to continue focusing serious attention on a number of issues, among them:
- Keeping the momentum on the recent START negotiations, ensuring ratification.
- Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
- Re-energizing the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (but never hiring anyone remotely resembling the likes of Paul Wolfowitz again!)
- De-alerting all nuclear weapons (unilaterally), and challenging President Medvedev to do the same.
- Pursue U.S. support for the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty
- Demonstrate that the U.S. is serious about creating a truly binding Treaty On The Non-Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) with time frames
The best thing that everyone can do at the moment is to take a deep breath, and then get back to work on current efforts at disarmament and non-proliferation.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the people who brought you that icon of the Nuclear Age, the DOOMSDAY CLOCK, have put together a special Web edition all about the most recent North Korean nuclear test. CLICK HERE to read it and find out everything you want to know (and a few things you might not, but need to). As one of the articles in The Bulletin notes, "some analysts will use Pyongyang's nuclear test to question the feasibility of a nuclear-weapon-free world. But they're missing the point--a world full of nuclear weapons hasn't deterred North Korea either." Ain't that the truth!
I also recommend David Krieger's article, North Korea's Bomb Test Message, in which reminds us that, "North Korea’s nuclear testing is a manifestation of a deeper problem in the international system, that of continuing to have a small group of countries possess and implicitly threaten the use of nuclear weapons for deterrence or any other reason."
This is not the time to let Pyongyang throw disarmament efforts off track; everyone needs to stay focused.
Cartoon Credit: The political cartoon portraying the nuclear powers (and the former U.S. president) so appropriately is by Steve Bell of the Guardian, C2008, source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoons/stevebell/0,,1891803,00.html