North Korean Threats and Nuclear Renewal

Experts who follow North Korea’s secretive nuclear activity said the country’s decision to restart a dormant nuclear reactor is part of long-term trend to increase the potency of its nuclear deterrent in order to exact concessions from South Korea and the United States. While North Korea’s actual capabilities are in question, the threats should be taken seriously, they said. “This situation is, relatively speaking, one of the more dangerous crises,” in recent memory, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Lewis told the Daily Report on April 2 that North Korea has taken a number of steps in the last two years to build up its nuclear capabilities, including the establishment of a strategic rocket forces command. More recently, North Korea announced that it would hold US targets “at risk,” he noted. “They are not kidding,” said Lewis of the North Koreans. “Their eyes may be bigger than their stomachs, but this is not a joke.” The North Korean people’s assembly on Monday passed a law consolidating the country’s nuclear weapons, and declared that the country would take “practical steps” to bolster the “strike power” in quality and quantity of its nuclear forces, according to western press reports. This makes North Korea’s nuclear weapons “non negotiable,” even by North Korean diplomats, without a change in North Korean law, said John McCreary, a veteran Pentagon intelligence analyst who is now author of the KGS NightWatch briefings.