Negotiations are essential after North Korea’s nuclear testing

North Korea conducted its third nuclear weapons test. Hans-Joachim Schmidt evaluates political and military aims and consequences and emphasizes the need to enter into negotiations with the country.

It’s a strong political signal North Korea is sending with its third, obviously successful, test-run of a nuclear explosive device.


The test is directed against the USA, however, there it poses no immediate threat to the United States. North Korea’s head of governance Kim Jong-un demonstrated the country’s dangerous nuclear aims before Obama gave his State of the Union address. Moreover, the test was conducted prior to the inauguration of South Korea’s recently elected president Park-Geun-hye on 25th February and during China’s transitional period to the new president Xi Jinping.

Likewise, North Korea demonstrates its independence from China and Russia, the country’s most important partners, which previously tried to stop the test. Internationally, the test causes new damage to the non-proliferation policy and the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Internally, the successful test should cover the precarious supply situation and gather the military leadership behind Kim Jong-un to strengthen his currently fragile position.

Militarily the test especially aims at developing smaller nuclear explosive devices in order to use jets and missiles as carrier systems. While it remains unclear if plutonium or even highly enriched uranium was used in the test, North Korea’s leadership already announced further testings.

Even if the UN Security Council agrees on new sanctions against North Korea, new negotiations with the country are essential because tensions rose and the danger of a conflict in the region has dramatically increased since the latest test.

In case North Korea uses its new power for more risky military blackmailing against its neighbours, the threat of an escalation significantly increases: South Korea has planned more severe counter-strikes after the 2010 artillery attack on its island Yeonpyeong by North Korea.

Growing nationalism in China, South Korea and Japan not only worsens territorial conflicts among these states, but makes a negotiated settlement of the nuclear crisis even more difficult to reach. Northeast-Asia is facing security-political uncertainties, which could have negative consequences for the global economy due to the region's growing political and economic significance.

Dr Hans-Joachim Schmidt is a research fellow at PRIF. His main fields of research are conventional arms control, military confidence building in Europe and the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Dr. Hans-Joachim Schmidt
schmidth @hsfk .de
Tel.: +49 69 959 104-33