The _Post_ quotes Andrei Lankov on the timing of “North Korea’s second nuclear test”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/25/AR2009052500297_pf.html:
bq. “This is absolutely predictable, even though I thought they would do it later, allowing some time for tension to mount,” said Andrei Lankov, a Seoul-based expert on North Korea who teaches at Kookmin University. “This is part of their usual blackmail tactics, aimed at squeezing more concessions from the United States.”
As Lankov says, that North would take the present opportunity to test a nuclear device is not surprising. They’ve told us as much. That the test comes so soon after the diplomatic breakdown, this time around, is perhaps a bit different, but maybe not so much. Consider: the last time we went through this drill, back in 2006, there was an early-July-to-early-October gap between the (not so) big missile launch and the (not so) big bang underground. This time, we’ve only had to wait from early April to late May. It’s a bit more than a month’s difference, then, if one measures from weapons test to weapons test, rather than from the announcement blowing off the 6PT to the first weapons test.
Anyway, the real surprise is, there were no media leaks about activity at the test site. If there were any, I missed them.
Update: Andrei Lankov is probably the top Anglophone expert on North Korea. I’m not trying to pick on him, or anyone in particular, really. Everyone expected a North Korean nuclear test this year; nobody expected it today.
Further update: If it seems that I’ve underplayed my intended point here, it’s because I’m reluctant to cast aspersions on the hard work of the intelligence community, especially with an argument from silence. Not everything that gets noticed necessarily gets leaked out. But it does seem odd that we heard nothing in the days before the test. The Administration had no interest in appearing to be caught off-guard.
I’ve tweaked the title of this blog entry and the first paragraph, so as not to distract from the intended point.
On A Related Note
Some believe that North Korea’s July 5, 2006 missile tests were timed to the 4th of July holiday here in the U.S. This “some” has never included yours truly: if that was the name of the game, why wait until late in the day of the 4th in the U.S.? Why not seize the morning headlines? To me, it always seemed more interesting that the fireworks display, including the failed TD-2 test, started right after a space shuttle launch. But seeing as it’s Memorial Day today, perhaps there _was_ something to that line of thinking after all. Or perhaps the North Koreans noticed the extra goose they got out of us, and did purposefully today what they did incidentally then.