News is piling up right now about crunch time for the Iran nuclear talks; ISIS, Ebola, Russian warplanes buzzing NATO, and upheaval in Burkina Faso (where this week protesters set fire to the Ouagadougou parliament, the longtime president tweeted his resignation and fled the the country, the military stepped in, and fallout of the upheaval may entail problems for U.S. anti-terror operations in West Africa). What next?
Call me impulsive, but I had a twitch today that amid these crises, it’s about time for North Korea to throw its hat into the ring — with its next nuclear test.
No, I don’t have any inside information. Kim Jong Un does not have me on speed dial. But I have been wading through stacks of material on North Korea’s assorted bouts of nuclear talks and nuclear tests, missile programs, human rights violations, and the current North Korean “charm offensive” — in which North Korean diplomats have been lauding North Korea as a cornucopia of communal joys, while Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency has been promising that North Korea will “Mercilessly Shatter U.S. and Its Followers ‘Human Rights’ Campaign.”
And I got to wondering what had happened with that North Korean threat issued in March, when Pyongyang released a statement that it would not rule out “a new form of nuclear test.” Shortly after that, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations held a press conference in New York, at which he confirmed that there was another test in the offing. Asked what the “new form” might be, he said “Wait and see,”
Since then, as far as North Korean nuclear testing, it’s been all wait, and no see. Satellite photos of North Korea’s Punggye-ri test site this spring did show what appeared to be preparations for a fourth nuclear test (the previous three having been carried out in 2006, 2009 and 2013). Analysts say North Korea appears ready to carry out its next illicit nuclear detonation. There have also been signs that North Korea is expanding its uranium enrichment facilities. And last week the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, General Curtis Scaparrotti, said at a press conference that he believes North Korea has the capability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and the technology to deliver it on a missile.
All of which is dire. But most of the U.S. fuss over North Korea in recent times has centered on such dramas as Kim’s fit of avunculicide in late 2013, the imprisonment of American tourists, the mysterious disappearance and reappearance this fall of the limping young tyrant Kim, and the damning United Nations report accusing North Korea’s leadership of crimes against humanity, to which North Korea has been responding with the diplomatic and propaganda blitz now dubbed a charm offensive.