North Korea’s test has been condemned by the United Nations Security Council as a “grave violation” of resolutions that were issued in response to previous “grave violations.” The U.S. president has called it a “highly provocative act” and said America will “lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.” China has censured; Japan has said it cannot be tolerated. Dozens of countries have chimed in. In the newspapers and online, there has been a profusion of op-eds: credible warnings that North Korea will sell its nukes; observations that it cannot yet land one on the U.S. mainland; debates over whether to try more talks, more sanctions, or some of both; and suggestions that we just learn to live with a nuclear North Korea.
If that’s all there is, it’s all been done before — and here we are, with Iran spinning its centrifuges and North Korea celebrating its latest nuclear test.
North Korea and Iran have plenty of reasons to conclude that they may, with relative impunity, proceed to the goal of stocking their arsenals with nuclear weapons and the vehicles to deliver them. As North Korea has just demonstrated, it is possible these days for one of the world’s worst rogue regimes to broadcast in advance that it plans to conduct a nuclear test, and the basic response of the leaders of the Free World is … to watch, and to talk about it.
The direct dangers should be obvious, though perhaps, as with the rumbles that preceded September 11, 2001, there is a failure of imagination at work here — not because we can’t see this one coming, but perhaps because the effects could be so horrific that a lot of people choose not to imagine quite that far.
The further fallout of these continuing North Korean nuclear tests: a message to other regimes that it is open season for pursuing nuclear weapons.