Is North Korea about to test a nuke?

North Korea, the forgotten third member of the Axis of Evil, may soon bump the other two members off the front page by testing a nuclear bomb. So, what happens if Kim Jong-Il crosses this red-line? Probably nothing much. No one is going to attack North Korea thanks to its deterrent. There’s no convenient colonel lurking in the wings. And sanctions bite ...

607285_KimJongIl.thumbnail5.jpg
607285_KimJongIl.thumbnail5.jpg

North Korea, the forgotten third member of the Axis of Evil, may soon bump the other two members off the front page by testing a nuclear bomb.

So, what happens if Kim Jong-Il crosses this red-line? Probably nothing much. No one is going to attack North Korea thanks to its deterrent. There’s no convenient colonel lurking in the wings. And sanctions bite less on a hermit state than elsewhere.

In recent times, Washington has argued that restraining North Korea is China’s job. But, as The Economist points out, China has tried to rein Kim in with little effect. There are even unconfirmed reports that the vertically challenged dictator is currently in China. The Chinese know that if Kim goes ahead with a test, the odds on Japan revising article 9 of its constitution will shorten dramatically. Consider that after the missile test in July, Koizumi’s likely successor suggested that pre-emption might be permissible, even under article 9, as an act of self-defense.

North Korea, the forgotten third member of the Axis of Evil, may soon bump the other two members off the front page by testing a nuclear bomb.

So, what happens if Kim Jong-Il crosses this red-line? Probably nothing much. No one is going to attack North Korea thanks to its deterrent. There’s no convenient colonel lurking in the wings. And sanctions bite less on a hermit state than elsewhere.

In recent times, Washington has argued that restraining North Korea is China’s job. But, as The Economist points out, China has tried to rein Kim in with little effect. There are even unconfirmed reports that the vertically challenged dictator is currently in China. The Chinese know that if Kim goes ahead with a test, the odds on Japan revising article 9 of its constitution will shorten dramatically. Consider that after the missile test in July, Koizumi’s likely successor suggested that pre-emption might be permissible, even under article 9, as an act of self-defense.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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