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North Korea’s Brinkmanship
Published May 25, 2011
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They Did What?!

On the morning of May 25, after giving the U.S. government one hour’s notice, North Korea detonated a nuclear device underground at the same northeast site of its now infamous October 2006 test. Larger than the 2006 detonation—between two and four kilotons in size—the test violated UN resolution 1718, not to mention the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which North Korea was once a part. Later that same day, Pyongyang test-fired three short-range ground-to-air missiles from the Musudan-ri launch site. [Recall that North Korea launched what it claimed was a satellite from this site in April, an act that elicited strong condemnation in a UN Security Council Presidential Statement.] The next day, it launched two more short range missiles. Seoul reacted by immediately becoming a full participant in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), regarding the search of ships and other carriers with suspicious cargo, and North Korea’s response was a declaration that it was abandoning the armistice that ended the Korean War. The North also warned that it would respond with military action to any attempts to interfere with North Korean ships and cast further doubt over the future of the North-South industrial venture at Kaesong. The excitement did not end there, however, as Pyongyang test-fired another short-range missile on May 29, possibly of a different design, and declared it would “retaliate if provoked” by UN action. Then, word of the North’s restarting itsYongbyon nuclear reprocessing facility began to spread. Now, as Insight goes to press, there are reports of an impending launch of another Taepodong-2 long range missile (see April edition of Insight), at a new, reportedly more-protected launch site near the Chinese border.

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