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Why North Korea's latest nuclear test should trigger a tougher response - but not military action

Why North Korea's latest nuclear test should trigger a tougher response - but not military action
From CBC - September 5, 2017

North Korea's sixth and largest-yet nuclear test, a detonation that occurred while most Americans dozed during the long weekend, may have finally ended efforts to prevent Pyongyang from achieving nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, experts say.

The North now claims to have a hydrogen bomb. It has at the very least blown up a thermonuclear weapon that, if mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile, could devastate an American city.

If that's indeed the case, experts say, the international community must shift focus away from keeping such weapons out of the North's hands to making sure the rogue state never deploys them.

Sunday's massive explosion caused a jolt that registered a 6.3 on the Richter scale, a seismic event that experts say could indicate a hydrogen bomb. Such a device would be eight times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War.

"Once they get to a hydrogen bomb level, we are talking millions of tonnes of TNT," said Harold Kazianis, director of defence studies at the Center for the National Interest, a Washington think-tank.

"We are out of time when it comes to stopping North Korea in acquiring nuclear weapons. They already have them, they are already there."

Making the option of using such weapons unthinkable or at least extremely unappealing for North Korea could come down to more deterrence through military exercises and shows of regional co-ordinated military strength, experts say.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are also telegraphing policies of containment to cut off the North Koreans from the economic, diplomatic and financial systems of the world.

No good options

While there are never good options when dealing with North Korea, Kazianis said, "it's time to focus on the here and now" by applying tougher sanctions on the North's allies and ratcheting up diplomatic pressures.

He believes the North may be only six to 18 months away from a key step of miniaturizing and mounting a hydrogen bomb on a missile that can reach the U.S. mainland.

Whatever the case, Kazianis said, the U.S. response should not veer into a unilateral military option that would trigger catastrophic collateral damage.

A targeted strike on nuclear weapons sites, for example, risks triggering war in the Korean Peninsula if the U.S. ca not guarantee 100 per cent accuracy on wiping out the entire nuclear program, Kazianis said.

"The challenge is we do not know where all the North Korean nuclear weapons are," Kazianis said. "Say you take out 28 out of 30 nuclear weapons, if Kim has one or two left, he will launch them at South Koreaor Japanor the west coast of the United States."

Aside from its atomic arsenal, North Korea still has 10,000 artillery tubes pointed at South Korea and 4,500 tonnes of chemical weapons"so you'd still be condemning hundreds of thousands of people to die," Kazianis said.

When a reporter asked Trump on Sundayif he would attack the North, Trump answered, "We will see."

Military threat

U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis struck a strident tone in discussing the prospect of war in the Korean Peninsula.

'Kim understands an attack on the U.S. homeland would likely lead to the end of their regime.' - AnthonyRuggiero

Sanctions proposed

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