No Reason to Stop: North Korea Needs Its Nuclear Tests

By Lee, Dennis | Harvard International Review, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

No Reason to Stop: North Korea Needs Its Nuclear Tests


Lee, Dennis, Harvard International Review


In recent years, news of North Korea is inevitably accompanied with the words "nuclear", "reactor, "ICBM", or some combination of those words. After all, the first half of 2013 saw news of another nuclear weapons test, the launch of a satellite, as well as the reopening of North Korea's plutonium production facility. While most nations have agreed, at least superficially, to move toward a denuclearized world, North Korea has continued to pursue and advance nuclear technology. And from the recent developments, this is not likely to change, due both to the benefits it confers on to North Korea and the rest of the world's inability to encourage North Korea to end it.

Kim Jong-un is a new leader. Despite being in office for almost two years now, he is still an unproven one. In a nation where the leader is revered, any change in leadership creates inherent doubt. In fact, there have been numerous reports of dissent among the military. A defector from the North told the Daily Telegraph that factions had formed over whether or not to accept Kim Jong-un as the leader. Joseph Bermudez, an expert on North Korea, has also suspected that the faction divisions have become violent. Especially in a nation that focuses primarily on military matters, the loyalty of the nation's military is crucial for the continuance of its leader. In order to consolidate control, Kim Jong-un has taken steps to remove and shuffle many senior military officials. Despite this, however, this does not change his image as that of an inexperienced leader.

As such, it is likely that the recent military escalations have been Kim 9 Jong-un's method of quickly getting this experience he seems to lack. In order to show his people that he is capable leader, he uses a situation, such as an escalation of tensions, in order to demonstrate his leadership skills. Unlike his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, who earned much respect and fame for his leadership of guerillas in the Second World War, there is no conflict for Kim Jong-un to display his leadership with. While a renewed Korean War would be incredibly devastating to both North Korea and South Korea, most experts agree that superior South Korean technology, along with US assistance, favors the South. In addition, the US's flyover of B-52 strategic nuclear bombers in South Korea is clear indication that the American "nuclear umbrella" covers the peninsula as well. An actual conflict is simply not beneficial enough to North Korea to justify starting one.

Instead, Kim Jong-un opts for the second best option. Almost as terrifying as actual conflict is the mere threat of a nuclear strike. Nuclear test detonations and ballistic missile launches all invigorate the North Korean populace, making it seem as though the nation is at the forefront of technological development. What dissenting high-ranking officials existed are now convinced of the new Supreme Leader's decisiveness and bold stance against the United States. This image is also the one presented to the general populace of North Korea; should any uncertainty exist, it could easily be eradicated. …

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