Unlike the alleged "fizzle," which took place in 2006, early estimates are indicating a more powerful nuclear test by the North Koreans.
NY Times-The dimensions of the test were not immediately verifiable, but estimates ranged upwards of the one kiloton of the North’s first nuclear test, in 2006. read more...The blast's tremor, which originated in Kilju, North Korea near the site of the 2006 test, triggered an earthquake which measured between 4.5 and 5.3 in magnitude. Moreover, the tremor strength could be indicative of a blast ranging anywhere between one and twenty kilotons according to South Korean Defense Minister, Lee Sang-Hee.
What does this test mean?
The foreign policy aspect of this situation as well as the long term solutions facing the President Obama are quite complex, as two previous administrations found out. Over the past six years multilateral six party talks have yielded nothing but broken promises and dysfunctionality amongst the allied participants, while North Korea is still pursuing its nuclear ambitions. General consensus among geo-political experts is that North Korea is attempting to use the nuclear card as a way of blackmailing the United States into more concessions or into direct talks with the communist state.
While the six party talks still remain an option, albeit a tainted one. There are other paths the administration could consider.
One is returning North Korea to the terror list, which it was removed from by the Bush administration.
Commentary Magazine-One particular rung in the ladder was the decision by the Bush Administration to remove North Korea from the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states. This surely had not a shred of justice in it: there is no evidence that suggests the North Koreans have stopped supporting terror. On the contrary, it was less than a year before that they were caught building Syria a nice fat center-for-the-production-of-weapons-of-mass-destruction. They have also been caught supplying weapons to Palestinian terrorists by sea, and building underground tunnels for Hezbollah. read more...
In addition, there is a debate as to whether or not Kim Jong-Il is actually in charge. There are some thoughts as to whether or not this test represents an internal struggle for power since Jong suffered a stroke last year.
The Guardian-According to a leading expert on North Korea, the British academic Aidan Foster-Carter, a developing fight for supremacy is the most probable explanation for Pyongyang's aggressive behaviour. "North Korea is snarling more. That suggests an internal power struggle," Foster-Carter told a seminar at the Chatham House thinktank in London last week. "The dog barks loudest when it's feeling vulnerable. And maybe it's safer to be a hardliner than a softliner when there's a power struggle going on." read more...
If this is the case then there exists a possible avenue for exploitation of this situation by the United States. Back in 2007, Andrei Lankov, wrote a memorandum for Foreign Policy Magazine to then SoS, Condoleeza Rice, offering possible solutions for toppling Kim Jung Il and his despotic regime.
He pointed out that it was incumbent upon the Bush administration to realize there was a "quiet revolution" happening within North Korea. The government could no longer afford to enforce its draconian rules. Citizens by default were gaining more freedoms than had ever had previously.
The second was using covert sources of information about the goings on in the outside world. North Korea is notoriously noted for being the most closed society on the planet. Any influx of information could be provided by a US run broadcasting station, then picked up by short wave radios which are regularly smuggled into the country by North Koreans.
Thirdly, educating North Korean defectors to the South. Then allowing them to pass on their newly gained knowledge about the rest of the world to family and friends back in the North through smuggled cell phones and networks.
Finally, promote cultural exchanges with the West. Allow North Korean students into America or allow their officials to do study tours in the US. Even something as innocent as inviting North Korean dance troupes to perform internationally could have some long lasting effects.
The key to toppling these tyrants seems to be exposing as many North Korean people to the outside world as possible. As Dr. Lankov points out, one of the main reasons European communism imploded in the 80's was that change was demanded by the people. Although, he neglects to point out that the intense economic pressures the US was enacting on the Soviets greatly contributed to this. A very similar situation like we see in present day North Korea.
FP Passport-Was North Korea's test really a surprise?