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Second Nuclear Test: North Korea Does What It Says

Author: Scott A. Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy
May 25, 2009


North Korea did exactly what it said it would do on May 25, 2009, when it conducted a nuclear test as promised in its April 28, 2009, statement in response to UN sanctions imposed on three North Korean firms in accordance with an April 13, 2009, UN Security Council Presidential Statement condemning North Korea's April 5, 2009, missile test. The test furthers North Korea's strategic objective of making permanent its status as a nuclear weapons state. North Korea's announcement of the test shows that a primary political target of North Korea's nuclear test is domestic, as was the case with North Korea's April 5th missile launch.

North Korea's May 25, 2009, statement announcing the test ties the rationale for the test directly to the leadership succession issue, underscoring an apparent fear that external actors will take advantage of unfolding succession arrangements to intervene or destabilize North Korea. The announcement emphasizes the need to "bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way," ties the test to a 150-day internal political and propaganda campaign designed to lay the framework for succession arrangements, and asserts that "the test will contribute to defending the sovereignty of the country and the nation and socialism and ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and the region around it with the might of (the military first policy) songun."

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