North Korea’s announcement that it conducted a successful underground nuclear test has set off a scramble to contain the regime’s weapons ambitions and steady global nerves (FT) over the detonation. Concern was such that even Pyongyang’s top ally, sanctions-averse China, believes “there has to be some punitive actions" (Reuters) taken by the UN Security Council. The list of sanctions proposed by the United States would cut off trade (WashPost) in all materials that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction and any financial transactions that could support such a program. The Security Council, though united in condemnation, faces intense negotiations about how tough it should be, even as doubts linger over whether the blast was nuclear (WashTimes).
North Korea may agree to return to multilateral talks now that it's shown its "nuclear hand," Alan D. Romberg, an Asia expert at the Henry L. Stimson Center, told CFR.org's Bernard Gwertzman. Kim Yong Nam, the Stalinist regime's second in command, told Kyodo news agency that future negotiations depended on the response of the United States. His statement came after North Korea's government warned it will carry out more tests if the United States steps up pressure and increased sanctions would be considered "a declaration of war." In its bid to be considered a major world power, the communist nation continues to seek (Sydney Morning Herald) bilateral talks with the United States. Washington’s refusal to meet one-on-one with Pyongyang has left North Koreans feeling "frustrated and aggrieved, "(Strategic Insights) (PDF) says the Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ Daniel A. Pinkston.
Pyongyang's test coincided with diplomatic talks in Northeast Asia, where Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun met in Seoul within hours of the underground explosion and agreed it warranted a stern response (Japan Times). South Korea will not agree to a UN Security Council resolution that includes military force (Korea Times), but OhMyNews, a South Korean blog, warns the “first victim” of the nuclear test will be South Korea’s “sunshine policy,” adopted in the late 1990s to warm relations with the North. Kim Dae-Jung, former president and the policy's founder, blamed harsh U.S. treatment (Korea Times) of North Korea for the current crisis.
Perhaps the gravest fear caused by the test is that North Korea will sell its weapons technology (NYT). The efficacy of U.S. sanctions to control Pyongyang's nuclear sales depends on China and Russia monitoring of their air and land space for arms shipments, reports the Los Angeles Times. The position of China, one of Pyongyang’s main donors, is of pivotal importance, says CFR Vice President Gary S. Samore. China voiced its annoyance with the tests (People’s Daily), but it’s unclear how far it will go. Peter Hayes and Tim Savage of the Nautilus Institute say Beijing—along with Seoul and Moscow—knows that bringing down the Kim Jong-Il regime with financial punishment could result in nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands. “Right now, the best response is to do little and say nothing, in order to devalue Kim's bomb,” they write. Although the nuclear test sparked worries (Economist) of a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia, Japan’s Abe, regarded as a hard-liner on North Korea, promised that Japan will not attempt to develop nuclear weapons (Australian). But the American Enterprise Institute’s David Frum says Japan should do just that. “It's time to put an end to the silly pretense that today's democratic Japan owes a burden of guilt to today's rising China,” he writes in the New York Times. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s George Perkovich called for cool heads to avoid nuclear proliferation in the region and “knee-jerk” reactions from the U.S. Congress.