Even North Korea’s 150-kiloton hydrogen bomb and avowed ability to fit it onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, as Kim Jong-un demonstrated Sunday, Sept. 3, have so far drawn nothing more decisive from the world’s powers than words of condemnation and threats of stronger sanctions..
President Donald Trump called North Korea a rogue state whose words and actions were "hostile and dangerous to the United States” and convened a meeting with his national security team. Yet stronger sanctions are on the table, including stopping trade with countries doing business with North Korea.
Japan’s Shinzo Abe, already rattled by the North Korean missile that flew over his country, said the latest nuclear test, the most powerful thus far, “is completely unacceptable and we must lodge a strong protest.”
South Korea said that its northern neighbor’s defiant sixth nuclear test should be met with the "strongest possible" response, including new UN Security Council sanctions to "completely isolate" the country.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Sunday to "appropriately deal with" the latest nuclear test by North Korea. The state news agency Xinhua said, "The two leaders agreed to stick to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and keep close communication and coordination to deal with the new situation."
But still, there is no sign of all these powers getting together for tangible, effective concerted action.
Since the Kim regime’s first underground nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006, almost every conceivable penalty and deterrent has been tried to rein in the rogue nation’s gallop towards a nuclear weapon, barring full-blown military aggression.
None worked, mainly because they were imposed piecemeal and never fully followed through. But most of all, this was because the big powers never lined up as one and pooled all their resources at the same time for concerted action. Sanctions were never comprehensive and so were never a solution.
The only time military action was applied against a North Korean nuclear facility was on Sept. 6, 2007 when the Israeli Air Force and special forces blew up the plutonium reactor under construction by North Korea in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour, in Operation Orchard. This plant was intended to be Iran’s main supplier of plutonium and had it been finished, would have accelerated Tehran’s advance towards a hydrogen bomb.
The Israeli example has long been set aside, mainly since it was overtaken by Obama’s pro-Iran policy. Successive governments led by Binyamin Netanyahu also set this precedent aside over heavy resistance among Israel’s politicians and some of its generals to an attack on Iran’s nuclear program before it matured.
North Korea’s latest nuclear test was estimated by experts to be five times more powerful than the WWII bomb which destroyed Nagasaki. The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty said it was evidence that Pyongyang’s nuclear program is “advancing rapidly.”
The leading world powers’ only real weapon against this advance is unity. But because this is so elusive -- and a military attack is seen as a bad option - their governments are apparently moving towards getting reconciled to living with a nuclear-armed Kim regime.
Against Iran, six world powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany), did team up and so were able to negotiate the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which left its weapons and missile programs intact although relatively free of effective oversight.
If a similar lineup confronted Kim Jong--un with a collective seven-day ultimatum to dismantle those programs or else face their destruction, he might decide to sit down and talk.. As things stand today, he is free to shoot ballistic missiles over Japan and detonate a hydrogen bomb like a child’s firecrackers, while the world begs him on bended knee to come and discuss freezing his belligerent programs on the Iranian model.
The North Korean leader will want much more than the deal won by Tehran, for a 10-year moratorium against a $150 billion pledge and many other rewards. Kim, whose arsenal is far more advanced, will certainly go a lot higher. His leverage for extortion is unassailable. He can either bargain for a mountain of cash or carry on looming over his Pacific neighbors and the United States, armed with advanced ballistic missiles and a nuclear bomb. He would then be faithful to the legacy of his father Kim Jong-Il, who declared in 1995 that a nuclear program was the only guarantee of his dynasty’s survival.
Attempts to starve his country and force the regime into submission have fallen short. Even South Korea does not dare stop sending aid to allay its compatriots’ endemic famine. For now, both Iran and North Korea, long in cahoots on their weapons programs, are riding high.