The US Congressional Research Service has an interesting paper on North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Arsenal (PDF) in which one discovers that it is probably a fairly modest stash of atomic Armaggedon whose essential molecular substance could fit under Kim Jong Il's bed. But now the national leader with the weirdest hairdoo in the world has very likely exploded something underground near the city of Gilju, Hamgyong province (0136 GMT) strong enough to be detected as a 4.2 magnitude earthquake by the US Geological Service.
The geopolitical shockwaves already far exceed the seismic waves announcing North Korea's entrance into the exclusive Nuclear Club of the World, whose members are: the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and now North Korea. Coupled with missile tests a few months ago, North Korea has made a noisy entrance.
I must admit I did not see this coming quite so suddenly with North Korea, though many have been warning that the strange guy that runs North Korea is strange enough to set off one of his firecrackers just to get some attention. With the South Korean foreign minister BAN KI-MOON about to take over Kofi Annan's job at the United Nations, he must be in serious need of some right now.
Speaking of the United Nations, a favorite topic of debate that often arises at Philippine Commentary whenever that subject comes up is the following question:
Would you support the abolition of the UN Security Council and the adoption of "TRUE DEMOCRACY" in the U.N. with all powers going to the General Assembly which would operate under the principle of ONE NATION, ONE VOTE?
Many readers who lean in the direction of YES on this question also support the notion that ALL nations have the "right to own nuclear weapons" since SOME nations already have them. It is perhaps no coincidence that the UN Security Council's five permanent members are in fact also the so called nuclear weapons states of the Non Proliferation Treaty. So there is a dovetailing of positions on the two issues. An EQUALITY among nations is sought both in voting rights at the U.N. as well as equal rights to own, and presumably use (?) nuclear weapons.
The reality of Kim Jong Il and his nuclear weapons explosion today may serve to uhmm, nucleate a more sensible attitude to both questions. But I think there is something far more subtle, and complex, to the question of "the right to own nuclear weapons" than the usual East vs. West or Right vs. Left political debate.
In today's fearsome, post-A.Q. Khan era, with rogue state actors and terrorist organizations capable of and threatening to kill human beings in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, one could get to missing the nerve wracking but finely balanced era of the Cold War.
The BBC has coverage of worldwide condemnation.
Here is the seismic signature of Kilju-1 captured in Japan, along with satellite imagery of the likely nuclear test site, and diagrammatic description of the setup probably used by the North Koreans.