NORTH KOREA’S latest nuclear test may mark a new and more risky strategy by a regime headed by a 29-year-old novice. Previous detonations by Pyongyang appeared intended mostly as crude provocations, designed to win credibility at home and concessions from South Korea and the United States. Now North Korea may be aiming to become a full-fledged nuclear power, with warheads and missiles that could threaten its neighbors and eventually the U.S. homeland.
The yield of the blast, as measured by seismographs, suggested it was twice as large as the last North Korean test, in 2009. Potentially even more significant was the regime’s claim that it had built a “smaller and light” bomb with “diverse materials.” In other words, the North may have made progress toward building a miniaturized warhead that could fit atop one of its long-range missiles and may have fabricated a weapon from enriched uranium, rather than the plutonium it has previously used. (Washington Post editorial, Posted 13 Feb 13)