The CSS Blog Network

North Korea’s Powerful Weakness

China - Dandong - DPRK border sign

China – Dandong – DPRK border sign. Photo: Doug/flickr.

CAMBRIDGE – When US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for their “shirt-sleeves summit” in California last month, North Korea was a major topic of conversation. The subject was not new, but the tone was.

More than two decades ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency caught North Korea violating its safeguards agreement and reprocessing plutonium. After the North renounced the subsequentAgreed Framework, negotiated by President Bill Clinton’s administration, in 2003, it expelled IAEA inspectors, withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has since detonated three nuclear devices and conducted a variety of missile tests. » More

In Korea, Overheated War Rhetoric Obscures Real Dangers

Kim Il-Sung

Soldiers honouring Kim Il-Sung at Mansudae Grand Monument. Photo: gadgetdan/flickr.

In its latest attempt to raise war fever on the peninsula, North Korea has asked foreign embassy personnel to consider evacuating. But the North’s overheated rhetoric is obscuring a real threat posed by its nuclear and missile potential. Its nuclear test on February 12 showed it is on the way to perfecting a compact weapon capable of being mounted on a missile. It now says it will restart its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon to generate plutonium, and will continue enriching uranium for weapons. And it may be moving to test-launch a new missile capable of reaching Japan or possibly Guam.

The nuclear test set off renewed talk in Seoul and Tokyo about nuclear arming of their own, prompting Washington to try to reassure its allies through deterrence. Yet, doing so has done little to make Korea or the region more secure. » More

Realism on North Korea

Kim Jong-Un clapping

Kim Jong-Un clapping. Photo: petersnoopy/flickr.

BERLIN – The world’s task in addressing North Korea’s saber rattling is made no easier by the fact that it confronts an impoverished and effectively defeated country. On the contrary, it is in such circumstances that calm foresight is most necessary.

The genius of the Habsburg Empire’s Prince Klemens von Metternich in framing a new international order after the Napoleonic Wars was that he did not push a defeated France into a corner. Although Metternich sought to deter any possible French resurgence, he restored France’s prewar frontiers. » More

The Pyongyang Persian Pickle

Image by Podknox/Flickr.

In English slang, “pickle” means a bad situation or a state of disorder. The provenance is Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” And pickle well applies to the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, Iran and U.S. policy.

Last week, Pyongyang announced it had exploded a nuclear device measuring about 10 kilotons, smaller than the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. How close North Korea is to “weaponizing” a bomb is unknowable as is whether this test remains a highly dangerous science experiment.

Despite the huff and puff of the second Bush administration over preventing North Korea from exploding a nuclear device, today no one seems terribly perturbed. China is in a key position to restrain North Korea but hasn’t so acted. While Japan and South Korea have a nuclear “breakout” capacity, there are no signs that an arms race will follow.

So, no matter the rhetoric, North Korea has become the newest, uncontested member of the nuclear club nearly two decades after Pakistan joined. » More

US and South Korea: A Show of Force, But Running Out of Options?

US troops rendering honors to the Republic of Korea Navy destroyer (ROKS). Photo: US Navy/flickr

North Korea’s third nuclear test provided the ideal opportunity for the United States and South Korea to respond with their own displays of military muscle. Two days after the test, South Korea showcased a cruise missile that Seoul claims can hit targets anywhere in the North. This month was also the first time in almost two decades that an American nuclear submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles entered South Korean waters.

Thus, the endless cycle of North Korean provocation, joint military drills and verbal war continues. Yet it remains difficult to find to find good analysis on next steps that need to be taken to address the impasse on the Peninsula. » More

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