Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:10 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:10 | SYDNEY

Initial take on the NORK test


Sam Roggeveen


26 May 2009 07:12

I tend to resist exclusively political readings of events like this, which is to say that I assume there was some scientific or military justification for the test as well as a diplomatic one. My assumption, therefore, is that North Korea felt the technology had to be further proven after what many see as a failed first test. Pyongyang's statement about this test does imply the first test failed, though it could be read merely as describing this test as the next stage in technological development.
As for poitical motives, take your pick. How about an internal motive, to start with: the leadership succession maneauvring is on. Externally, there are the obvious audiences, principally the US, China and South Korea. The message intended was probably not strictly military — even if the last test was a fizzer, it did enough to persuade the US and South Korea (if such persuasion were needed) not to take military action against Pyongyang. If this latest test was solely intended to reinforce that message, it was probably unneccesary. Mind you, Pyongyang itself may not accept this logic. They don't call the regime 'paranoid' for nothing.
So what does this test achieve for Pyongyang? It gets people's attention, though that doesn't seem like a terribly valuable commodity in itself. Does the test make it easier for North Korea to wring concessions from the US and others? Surely not.
Probably there is no ulterior motive, and the superficial answer is the most plausible: that is, North Korea conducted a test because it wants a working nuclear weapon. And it wants a nuclear weapon because there is nothing else it can do for itself or that others can do for it that would better ensure the security of the country and the regime.

Photo by Flickr user Lex Luthor1, used under a Creative Commons license.