The DPRK has announced its intention to conduct a nuclear weapons test, which would confirm what analysts have long expected — that North Korea is a nuclear power.
The North Koreans are acting a lot like a group of petulant, spoiled children. They want attention, and they want it now, and they believe that the only way they can get it is by crying as loudly as possible and doing something destructive. They hope to force the US to accept bilateral negotiations which they will promptly use as an excuse to demand further outrageous term and then promptly walk out in a huff. Fortunately, the Bush Administration doesn’t seem to have much interest in playing along with them on that and is still rightfully insisting on region-wide talks. The US isn’t as threatened by a North Korean nuke as South Korea and Japan are, and they have every right to sit at the table and be part of any proceedings.
What will be truly interesting is to see the Japanese reaction to all this. The new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe wishes to follow the path of the outgoing Junichiro Koizumi in creating a more muscular Japan. The Japanese almost certainly have the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons at any time, although they have not done so due to the understandable reticence of the Japanese people towards the possession of nuclear weapons. If the Japanese have reason to worry that they will once again be the victims of a nuclear attack, then it is quite possible that Japan may accelerate their gradual re-militarization.
The North Koreans want attention, but our policies should not change — we should continue to support multilateral negotiations and continue to work on anti-ballistic missile technologies to prevent the North Koreans from using those weapons. The North Koreans can cry until they’re blue in the face, but we must not allow the whims of tyrants to dictate our foreign policy.