|The captured images from video footage released by the North’s Korean Central TV shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signing a paper to approve a hydrogen bomb test, and Kim’s signature on the document. Kim wrote, “Approved. (Conduct the test) at noon on Sept. 3.” / Yonhap|
By Choi Ha-young
Tension around the Korean Peninsula is expected to increase further after North Korea claimed it successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test Sunday.
“This time, Pyongyang seemingly tested a hydrogen bomb and a nuclear warhead, given two explosions reported from the test site,” said Cho Han-bum, a senior research fellow from the Korea Institute for National Unification. “This means it has almost mastered the skills needed to deploy a nuclear warhead.
“Because the North has become a de facto nuclear state, international society has little option but to revise its security strategy premised on the North’s nuclear weapons, or keep threatening to remove Kim Jong-un.
“The tension will reach boiling point.”
Chairman of the National Assembly Committee on National Defense Rep. Kim Young-woo agreed with the analysis that the North was a nuclear state, considering the seismic activity from the test ― a 5.7 magnitude tremor.
Cho said talks about redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons ― an issue being raised by the main conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP) ― were likely to gain momentum.
“Now, the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons should be realistically discussed,” LKP floor leader Chung Woo-taik said Sunday.
Immediately after the test, three opposition parties ― LKP, the Bareun Party and the People’s Party ― criticized liberal President Moon Jae-in’s initiative for talks with North Korea.
“Moon’s security stance based on an illusion has led to this unprecedented crisis,” said LKP spokesman Rep. Khang Hyo-shang.
Bareun Party chief spokesman Park Jeong-ha said Moon’s North Korea approach was “naive” while People’s Party spokesman Son Kum-ju blasted the administration’s “lack of countermeasures other than offers of dialogue.”
Political observers said that along with raising the military threat, Pyongyang might suddenly offer to hold talks, even though it will never abandon its nuclear development.
But Cho said, “A nuclear freeze as a condition of possible talks is pointless. However, Pyongyang may promise not to attack the U.S. or not to spread its nuclear technology to other countries, because it has not fully mastered intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capacity.”
Cutting oil supply
International society is expected to reinforce sanctions against the North. The U.S. and some South Korean politicians have urged Beijing to stop providing oil to Pyongyang.
“China could agree to cut the amount of crude oil delivered to the North or stop providing petroleum, even if it would be difficult to shut down everything,” said Sejong Institute senior researcher Cheong Seong-chang.
But China is unlikely to co-operate fully with Washington and Seoul, given the ongoing diplomatic friction over a Terminal Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery deployment in South Korea.
“Diplomatic conflict between Washington and Beijing has deepened and THAAD has caused distrust between Seoul and Beijing,” said Kim Heung-kyu, director of the China Policy Institute at Ajou University.
“For China, the North Korean nuclear issue is part of its global strategy, which means its pressure on Pyongyang could be limited,” “Because its pressure on North Korea could have a negative effect on China, Beijing may come up with a third option.”