Nice to wake up to.
Reuters, via CNN, has “part of”:http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/10/03/nkorea.nuclear.text.reut/index.html of the North Korean FM statement. Here’s the scary part:
bq. Firstly, the field of scientific research of the DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed.
Interestingly, the statement seems to make an effort to assuage one of the biggest fears concerning its nuclear weapons program:
Secondly, the DPRK will never use nuclear weapons first but strictly prohibit any threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear transfer.
The DPRK will always sincerely implement its international commitment in the field of nuclear non-proliferation as a responsible nuclear weapons state.
I’m not sure how effective this reassurance will be, though.
North Korea has made threats like this “before,”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1167/nork-nuke-test-site but this is the most explicit. That, along with the timing of the announcement, makes me think that this is troubling.
Incidentally, when I was talking to people while writing “this article”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2006_09/newsanalysis.asp, I was kind of surprised at the number of reasonable people who considered the risk of a test to be pretty high. Personally, I think that the chances that North Korea will test for the purpose of escalating the current diplomatic situation are still fairly low, mainly because there’s not a whole lot they could do for an encore.
Perhaps, though, the Norks want to test for the most basic reason: to see if their weapons (if they have them) work.
One sorta bright spot: the statement _does_ indicate that Pyongyang wants to walk back its nuclear weapons program:
Thirdly, the DPRK will do its utmost to realize the denuclearization of the peninsula and give impetus to the world-wide nuclear disarmament and the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons.
The ultimate goal of the DPRK is not a “denuclearization” to be followed by its unilateral disarmament but one aimed at settling the hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and removing the very source of all nuclear threats from the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity.
There is no change in the principled stand of the DPRK to materialize the denuclearization of the peninsula through dialogue and negotiation.
This last part is fairly similar to what North Korea has repeatedly said about the talks. So maybe this is more bluster.
On a related note, the _Joongang Ilbo_ “reported about 2 weeks ago”:http://joongangdaily.joins.com/200609/21/200609212206103439900090309031.html that a South Korean legislator has been saying that, according to ROK intelligence, North Korea has what looks like a test shaft prepared:
North Korea has constructed an underground tunnel for possible use in a nuclear weapons test, a Grand National Party lawmaker with close ties to the intelligence community said yesterday.
Chung Hyung-keun cited sources in the National Intelligence Service for his claim. He said a shaft 700 meters (0.4 miles) deep has been sunk into Mount Mantap in North Hamkyong province with a horizontal tunnel running nearby.
Pointing out similarities between the suspect site and those for underground nuclear tests in the U.S. state of Nevada and in India and Pakistan, he said that Pyongyang seemed to be preparing for a similar test. He said the vertical shaft was more than twice as long as would be necessary, interpreting that as a desire by North Korean scientists to reduce the risk of atmospheric fallout.
Wrong week to quit sniffing glue…