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Michael Roston

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After the Nuke Test, the US and North Korea Should Keep Talking

Posted: 05/25/09 01:12 AM ET

Just in time for the stock markets to open in Asia, Kim Jong-Il's North Korea conducted another nuclear weapons test, according to Reuters.

Much noise will be made by conservatives all week that President Obama's weak foreign policy is emboldening Kim and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the weird missile test some weeks back and now this bomb test prove that he's moving America on the wrong track.

My reaction:

1. Kim did these things under President Bush, too. Failing to negotiate with the North Koreans didn't stop any of this from happening back then, either.

2. There's a pretty decent likelihood that the 2006 bomb test was a 'fizzle,' i.e. a weapon that didn't properly go off. Building plutonium-based bombs is hard. We're not even sure how well most of America's (or Russia's for that matter) work under non-test-circumstances, we just take it on principle that they'll go off as expected after more than a thousand test explosions. North Korea's first test didn't go so great, showing that any state that wants to go through the complications of building a plutonium-based bomb has some difficult work to do. So while North Korea may have a nuclear capability, it's actual nuclear war-fighting powers have yet to be proven.

3. President Bush and team's pig-headed refusal to negotiate with North Korea actually made nuclear testing possible. North Korea's plutonium supply was under IAEA seal for years after the negotiation of the 1994 Agreed Framework. When the Framework was suspended, due to the allegation that North Korea was enriching uranium, North Korea kicked out the IAEA and re-claimed the plutonium it had extracted from spent nuclear fuel in previous years. A physicist I once spoke with told me that the North Koreans didn't manufacture enough electricity NATION-WIDE to enrich enough uranium to develop a credible nuclear deterrent.

So I say, keep talking. History is not on North Korea's side, and ensnaring the hermit state in negotiations establishes some possibility of reining in its behaviors.

But hey, I'm just a former nuclear nonproliferation analyst, what do I know? What do you say? Does President Obama need to get tough with North Korea and refuse to negotiate with Kim Jong-Il? Or should he stick with it, and try to negotiate a solution? Answer our poll at True/Slant and tell us what you think.

 

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