The test also serves notice that the Korean War isn't over, and unfortunately some people need reminding. Last month, President Barack Obama proclaimed that a decade of war is ending. North Korean propagandists declared that current dictator, Kim Jong Un, had ordered the test as a response to "ferocious" U.S. hostility and "violent" opposition to North Korea's sovereign right to peacefully launch satellites. See, North Korea claims its December 2012 ballistic missile launch was all about civilian satellites, not testing a delivery system capable of hitting Seoul, Tokyo and Honolulu. Initial seismic analysis indicates the nuclear test had the punch of a 6 to 8 kiloton weapon. Though roughly half the power of the Hiroshima bomb, that's more than big enough to incinerate Pearl Harbor and the beach at Waikiki.
It is very probable that North Korea provides Iran's Islamic dictatorship with nuclear and missile technology, so North Korea's nuclear menace extends beyond East Asia and the Pacific to Central Asia, Europe and Africa.
China's official reaction was surprisingly tough, given that Beijing has been the North's chief benefactor and sponsor, but China has global economic interests that North Korean nukes and their Iranian offspring may imperil. China expressed firm opposition to the test. The Obama administration is calling for stiffer international sanctions to punish North Korea, but China is the only nation that can impose meaningful sanctions on the Kim regime. Beijing has never done so.
South Korea has won the economic, social and cultural dimensions of the Korean War. The only unsettled component is the one that puts the KTX, Seoul's nightclubs and the lush rice fields at risk: the military confrontation. Unless China acts decisively to end North Korea's nuclear quest, this week's multi-kiloton blast may lead South Korea and Japan to conclude the military dimension must be won as well.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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