China and others should do their part, but only the US can make real progress
What once prompted shock now brings something closer to weariness: news of a North Korean nuclear test, followed by a round of international condemnation and probably, in due course, tightened sanctions. But while this is the fifth test since North Korea began detonating nuclear devices in 2006, it is also the second in just a year. Today’s device was the most powerful the country has set off and, while its claims to have miniaturised a nuclear warhead capable of being mounted on missiles should be taken with a pinch of salt, its programme is clearly progressing. It will not be stopped by more sanctions.
Kim Jong-un’s unpredictability, like his nuclear programme, has served North Korea well. No one likes it, but everyone has to care about it, and no one wants to mess with it. Fearful of the outside world – the elite want to protect themselves; the country was flattened by US bombs in the Korean war; and George W Bush named it in his axis of evil – North Korea has no reason to halt its programme.