WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this month, North Korea carried out its fifth nuclear test – its second this year. Judging by the tremor detected, it was the North’s most powerful nuclear device ever. The question now is how the international community should respond.
That question has become all the more acute because, though North Korean reports are not exactly reliable, the propaganda that accompanied the latest test hinted that the North was testing a weapon design, not just an explosive device. And, as South Korean officials have suggested, it may not be the last test of this year. In other words, North Korea may begin to stockpile weapons of mass destruction.
Not only have the North’s recent nuclear tests been more powerful than those of previous years; they have also been conducted alongside an equally robust series of tests of ballistic missiles, including submarine launches and multi-stage rocket launches, with much more powerful engines. This means that North Korea may be close to perfecting a delivery system for whatever weapons it is developing.
No one can say for sure whether a deliverable weapon will come from North Korea in the next two years, four years, or later. But there is little doubt that the North Koreans are not just seeking attention; they are seeking a powerful bomb and the means to use it.