In news of the inevitable, North Korea has exploded a nuclear device. Weird dicatators crave nukes — it’s one of the less weird things about them. No one was/is going to talk or pressure North Korea out of developing such weapons. If we had a shot, it was back in the mid-1990s when North Korea was just getting started. Our failure to take meaningful action and to hide instead behind the “agreed framework” is another piece of President Clinton’s legacy and another item in President Carter’s disgraceful resume.
How much of a danger does North Korea pose? Hard to say. I’m of the view that this is a reactionary, status quo preserving power (in the tradition of the Soviet Union in its latter stages) with no interest in using nukes or even being much of an aggressor. As such, the deterrence model should work. I imagine that some of its neighbors will develop the weaponry that will add to the overall capacity to deter North Korea. Of course, I could be wrong about the extent of North Korea’s ambitions and/or irrationality, so we should accelerate the development of an anti-missile system, which eventually will come in handy without regard to North Korea.
The biggest threat that North Korea poses, I think, is the sharing of its technology with other rogue states and entities. This is where our focus should be. How we prevent it is less clear.
Our primary focus, though, should be on Iran because (a) unlike North Korea it is not a reactionary state that’s content with the status quo and (b) it’s probably not too late to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, provided we move away from the current overly inclusive multilateralism.
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