The U.S. government remains uncertain of the nature of the underground explosion, although the air sampling tends to reinforce earlier doubts about whether the test blast was entirely successful, officials said. Data from seismic sensors indicated the explosion was smaller than expected.This makes it highly unlikely that North Korea actually carried out a successful nuclear detonation. (Hat tip to my friends at Stubborn Facts.)
Although I have posted briefly on the North Korean nuclear situation here and here, I have been unable to really get into panic mode over the whole affair, in large part because the smallness of the seismic signature of the detonation inspired doubt from the very start. Those doubts now seem to be vindicated.
The world has been given a grace period to do something about North Korea before it starts selling nuclear technology to every terrorist group with sufficient financial backing. This was the clear danger from the very start, as not even Kim Jong Il is crazy enough to provoke a nuclear war with either its neighbours or the US. There are disheartening signs, such as Russia and China's pressure in the UN to keep reaction low-key in favour of diplomatic solutions, which has too often been UN-speak for accomplishing nothing whatsoever and giving tyrants a free hand.
On the other hand, Shinzo Abe, Japan's new right-wing, nationalist prime minister made his first foreign visit to China last week, just before the test and got along famously with his hosts (remember the saying: Only Nixon could go to China?) with one of their main points of agreement being the necessity of keeping North Korea in line. I find it encouraging that the first impulse has not been to start an antagonistic military build-up in the Far East between the two great regional powers.
So while the situation in North Korea is still a subject of grave concern, there is not yet any need to panic. Indeed, Kim may have done us all a favour by making it very difficult to ignore his shenanigans and galvanizing world opinion enough to accomplish something before critical mass is obtained. That's a bit optimistic on my part, I know.
[Read the comments.]
Technorati tags: Kim Jong Il, Shinzo Abe, Nuclear test