PN's Voice 66

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 66, 07-01-2016
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PN's Voice No. 66  07. 01. 2016 
Small steps, Road to peace

North Korea Claims 4th Nuclear Test

North Korea claimed yesterday that it successfully carried out its first underground test of a hydrogen bomb - a more powerful weapon than an atomic bomb. If true it would be its fourth nuclear test after similar tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 and marks a huge advance in its nuclear capabilities. The announcement was swiftly criticized by world leaders with South Korea calling it "a grave provocation to our national security". But there has been no independent confirmation of the North's claim yet. Despite North Korea's claims, experts are skeptical that North Korea can make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a missile.

Observers agree a nuclear explosion of some kind took place and it seems to have been a bit bigger than the last test in 2013, but not nearly big enough to be a full thermonuclear explosion - an "H-bomb" - as Pyongyang claims. Suspicion an underground test had been carried out was first raised after the US Geological Survey detected unusual seismic activity at 10:00am Pyongyang time - in the north-east of the country, A 5.1 magnitude tremor was detected about 50km from Kilju city, near the Punggye-ri nuclear site, which monitors said was likely not natural. Hours later, in a surprise announcement, a newsreader on North Korean state TV said: "The republic's first hydrogen bomb test has been successfully performed at 10:00 am on January 6, 2016." North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had said last month that Pyongyang had developed a hydrogen bomb, although many experts were skeptical. It could be days or weeks before independent tests are able to verify or dismiss the recent claim.

After the last test, in 2013, there was widespread condemnation. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting at which its members, including China, "strongly condemned" it. Similar outrage has followed this time too. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan has said this was a "serious threat" to the safety of his nation, while China, the US, South Korea and the UN have similarly condemned Pyongyang for its actions.

On top of the reported fourth nuclear test, North Korea also appears to have tested a submarine-launched missile. The ability to launch missiles from submarines would change the whole calculation of military response because warning times of an attack on, for example, the West Coast of the United States would be much shorter.

Before the test, North Korean state media said the country "deserved to hold nuclear weapons... to counter nuclear threats by the US". Experts had believed North Korea was still some years from being able to hit a target with a nuclear bomb delivered by a missile. But it is crystal clear that it is absolutely determined to be able to do so. The United Nation Security Council plans to hold a meeting of its members on Wednesday.
Source : BBC News

U.S. Reaffirms its 'Ironclad' Commitment to Defending S. Korea

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter assured South Korea of his country's "ironclad" commitment to defending South Korea from North Korea's nuclear threats. Han Min-koo, South Korea’s Defence Minister, said in a joint press release with Carter; "Secretary Carter reaffirmed the U.S.' ironclad defense commitment to South Korea, and this includes all kinds of extended deterrence assets." The two defense chiefs discussed over the phone on Wednesday how to tighten their security collaboration after the North conducted another nuclear test. Han and Carter also shared their determination that North Korea will not be recognized in the international community as a country that legitimately possesses nuclear capabilities, according to the joint release.

On how to respond to yesterday's test, Han said: "Both ministers agreed that North Korea should pay a price that is proportional to the provocation". The ministers will "tightly collaborate" under the South Korea-U.S. alliance to deal with threats from North Korea's nuclear arms, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, he added. On its part, South Korea will push for the early installation of it Kill Chain and Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) to guard against North Korea's missile and nuclear threats Han said. The allies' defense ministries will continue with their regular joint war exercises and devise customized deterrence systems.

Fears have been raised that the nuclear test could give rise to calls for tactical nuclear weapons to be deployed in South Korea, as well as deploying a THAAD missile defence unit. "If the North had indeed succeeded in a hydrogen bomb test, it cannot help but be a game changer," a diplomatic source in Washington said. "It could lead to growing calls for strengthening South Korea's nuclear deterrent capabilities on the assumption that it would be difficult to prevent the North from becoming a nuclear power." The U.S. withdrew nuclear weapons from South Korea in the early 1990s. Since then, the South has relied on the U.S. nuclear umbrella or extended deterrence to defend against a nuclear North Korea.
Source : Yonhap News, Yonhap News,

Review of Kim Jong-un and Park Geun-hye’s New Year Speeches

Much like last year, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un’s annual New Year’s address on Friday sent mixed messages of both reconciliation with the South and threats of the North’s determination to increase develop military capabilities. Mr. Kim’s televised address, which is scrutinized each year for clues to his secretive government’s intentions, held no major surprises. As in past New Year’s speeches, the young leader called for improving the living standards of his impoverished people, while also expressing his willingness to work towards better relations with the South, as well as hinting that the South must demonstrate that it is genuinely interested in improving ties with the North:

“We will actively pursue dialogue and improvement in ties between North and South Korea…We will sit down and discuss the issues of the nation, including reunification, with anyone who truly wants the reconciliation, solidarity, peace and reunification of the nation.”

Mr. Kim did not specifically mention the North’s nuclear weapons or long-range missile programs on Friday, nor did he give any hint of the reported 4th nuclear test that followed days later. He did however say that the country would continue to develop “more diverse means of military strike of our own style.” He also condemned the joint military exercises held each year by South Korea and the United States.

In South Korea, such overtures from Mr. Kim, while not unwelcome, are viewed with considerable skepticism. In his address last year, he indicated that he was open to meeting with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea. But in 2015, the persistent tensions between the countries escalated to the brink of armed conflict, after two South Korean border guards were maimed by land mines. That crisis was alleviated in August; since then, the two sides have held inconclusive talks. Park touched on the hardships of 2015 in her speech referring to them as “many difficulties and challenges”. Last year’s troubles explain why Park Geun-hye highlighted the need to focus on firmness and security vis-a-vis North Korea, whilst maintaining open to dialogue: “Strong security is the most fundamental basis of national development. We will resolutely deal with any North Korean provocation with a watertight defense posture while keeping the door for dialogue open, moving closer to an era of a peacefully united Korean Peninsula.”
Source : The New York Times, The Blue House

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