North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions | M Omar Iftikhar

Regional conflicts have always been on the rise during the post-2nd World War as new boundaries were made and allies became stronger, while foes surfaced with a higher sense of vengeance. Amidst this tussle for supremacy, the need for amassing weapons became the need of the hour as countries had to defend their borders from external threats and to create hegemony over others. In this regard, the conflicts between South and North Korea have always been on a high as the two countries have engaged in a tussle for regional supremacy. Recently, North Korea reportedly carried out a successful experiment of a hydrogen bomb which has sent ripples across the West, with the wavesbeing felt especially in Washington and in South Korea.

With this test, North Korea has once again defied international laws and perhaps has gone out a stretch in showing that it will not falter in pursuing its nuclear ambitions – no matter how rebellious they might seem. It has also ignored all possibilities of sanctions that the West can impose on it. According to analysts, a hydrogen bomb has more destructive capacity than an atomic bomb. This fact would have sent chills across the Far East and the West. Although the US has been concerned over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Washington fears over North Korea’s ability to miniaturise these weapons. This will allow Pyongyang to use these weapons on trans-Pacific missiles. Washington is exerting its pressure over NorthKorea to reduce its nuclear proliferation technology and is garnering China’s support to influence Pyongyang in doing so. However, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un has seldom paid any heed to United States’ concerns in the past.

However, China is not willing to exert influence over North Korea. Beijing is afraid that any over exertion of pressure over will create border tensions between China and North Korea and China cannot afford a regional conflict at this time when its economy is growing. Even with North Korea claiming to have completed a hydrogen bomb test, the US is stating otherwise. The US stated that the seismic activity having a magnitude of 5.1 near Pyongyang was too small for a thermonuclear bomb. They claim that a hydrogen bomb would have made a greater seismic activity but this was roughly equivalent to the tests which North Korea conducted in 2006, 2009, and 2013. This statement of denial from the US can enrage North Korea in conducting another test to prove that it really did test a hydrogen bomb.

In case the West does impose sanctions over North Korea, it will have a different affect. When the West imposed sanctions on Iran, it sent the country into a financial crisis for Iran is well connected with the world in terms of finance and trade. NorthKorea, on other hand, has its major trade with China and a trade sanction with disrupt China-North Korea ties. Moreover, the US has imposed sanctions on North Korea during last two decades which has only limited Pyongyang in refraining from maintaining international ties, but did bring it closer with China. Perhaps this is reason why China is not aggressive overNorth Korea’s nuclear pursuits or it will lose a major trading alley. How will China react if the US compels Beijing to be more assertive with North Korea is yet to be seen.

North Korea, however, has conducted these tests to gain West’s attention and also to remain in global headlines for it knows that Pyongyang can strike a deal with the US. However, a deal is not about to happen as both countries have seldom gone for table talks. If US-North Korea ties turn sour and with China in the equation, it can affect US-China relations, which will not bode well as far as geopolitics is concerned. Both US and China have to diplomatically diffuse the North Korea problem because any wrong decision will only enrage North Korea while placing US and China and in a boiling situation.

— The writer is a freelance columnist.


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