On February 12, North Korea made good on a promise to conduct its third nuclear test. As intelligence services and independent analysts work to determine the exact details of the test — such as what type of fissile material was used and the device’s design and yield specifications — leaders in the United States and Asia are busy crafting their responses.
RPI Nuclear Debates in Asia author Scott A. Snyder provided his quick take on how this provocation will affect regional domestic politics:
The international community greeted the test with widespread condemnation. South Korea and Japan convened emergency meetings of top national security officials, China’s foreign minister stated that China is “strongly and resolutely opposed” to North Korea’s test, and the White House described it as “a highly provocative act . . . that warrants further swift and credible action by the international community.”
North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests provide an early challenge to new leaderships in Seoul and Beijing and follow a pattern similar to the one surrounding North Korean 2009 tests. The 2009 tests were designed to take advantage of political leadership transitions and provided an early political test to the Obama administration.
Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea Studies and director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, highlights the motivations and dangers of Pyongyang’s aggressive posture, but also concludes that the present crisis “provides an incentive for enhanced Sino-U.S. cooperation and illustrates the need for international cooperation to limit the incalculable costs that would result if North Korea stays on its current course.”