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Coping with nuclear risks

Mar 31,2017
North Korea once again seems to be preparing for a nuclear test in Punggye-ri, North Hamkyong. Our intelligence authorities anticipate the North will conduct its sixth nuclear test ahead of the first summit meeting on April 6-7 between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Satellite photos show movement of vehicles to carry equipment needed for the test and cables used at the last stage of the test.

The cables are needed to collect data on the measurement of the energy released from a nuclear explosion and the speed of neutrons. A satellite photo also shows 70 to 100 North Korean soldiers lining up around a complex in the nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, probably for a final checkup.

Our Ministry of National Defense and National Intelligence Service are paying keen attention to the size of the sixth test and its repercussions. The defense ministry estimates the power of the explosion will reach 20 kilotons this time — more powerful than the 16-kiloton Little Boy that dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945 during World War II, killing more than 160,000 citizens.

The intelligence authorities also say that there’s a possibility that North Korea will test various types of nuclear bombs — including plutonium and uranium bombs as well as a boosted fission weapon — simultaneously or in sequence in order to show off its nuclear capability and build stronger leverage for future negotiations with the U.S. At its current pace, North Korea is expected to acquire as many as 50 nuclear missiles by 2020.

The North Korean nuclear crisis is heading to a point of no return. If it pushes the wrong button, it will lead to the kind of disaster never seen before.

Pyongyang is even trying to confront Uncle Sam with its nuclear arsenal as clearly seen in its foreign ministry’s threat yesterday that it has the determination and capability to react to any type of war America cares to wage.

But Pyongyang’s recklessness only invites its own destruction. The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday passed its toughest-ever act banning the North’s oil imports, the employment of North Koreans overseas, and the North’s online gambling and pornographic sites. On the same day, the U.S. Congress re-designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and passed a resolution to denounce its development of ICBMs, not to mention removing pro-North Ecuador from its list of visa waiver countries.

North Korea’s ill-conceived nuclear dream only helps advance its demise. Seoul and Washington are determined to counteract any nuclear attack. Pyongyang must come to the negotiation table after stopping its nuclear programs. In such a grim situation, however, no presidential contenders are talking about how to deal with Pyongyang. They must present concrete stances. The government also must thoroughly prepare for the unprecedented security risk based on the decades-old Korea-U.S. alliance.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 31, Page 34