Safety and Security in the Post-Hiroshima World

Security Brief: April 12, 2013

North Korea

If you’re using any type of media on a semi-reuglar basis–newspapers, TV, radio, the Internet–then it’s pretty impossible for you not to know that something’s up with North Korea. Bellicose rhetoric, nuclear posturing, ya da ya da ya da. And if you you’ve heard about North Korea, you’ve also probably heard that one of the biggest issues is once again whether to take the country’s threats seriously–or rather, whether to take them really seriously. North Korea is no stranger to fiery rhetoric. And North Korea isn’t exactly all talk; it’s actions have also toed the line in the past (take the bombardment of a South Korean island or the torpedoing of a South Korean navy ship).

The solution to this dilemma isn’t easy. Neither is finding media that addresses the nuances of the most recent activity on the North Korean peninsula. I’ve always tried to make it easier for people to get the beneath-the-surface information about pressing security issues. This week, however, I don’t have to do that job, because Harry Halem at Arms Control Wonk has already compiled a great list of readings from the past week. However, I’d like to add a few things to the list:

  • Joel Wit at Foreign Policy writes that the key to diplomatically lowering the tensions on the Korean peninsula lies in forgetting about the two “myths” tied to North Korea: 1) that every time North Korea whips out the bellicose behavior, it’s because it wants international aid, and 2) that North Korea cheats on its agreements.
  • If you want to know what life is like in North Korea, Rick Newman is here to tell you (though his reporting seems to come not from first-hand experience but mostly from a report released by the Korea Institute for National Unification).
  • Meanwhile, the most recent “revelations” on the ground include information from the Pentagon that cites with “moderate confidence” that North Korea has the ability to mount miniaturized nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles (though the reliability of such a missile would be low). Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now in Seoul, has attempted to downplay this information, saying that it is not conclusive and that North Korea has not been accepted by the international community as a nuclear power. Regardless of the nuclear realities on the ground, it is likely that North Korea could launch a missile test at any time, an act the John Kerry deems would be a “huge mistake.”

In other news…

  • The UN General Assembly approved a global arms trade treaty last week. This week, reactions have poured in. Will the treaty be approved by the US Senate? The treaty is controversial in the US as well as in India. The Czech Republic is just one of the countries that has been far more supportive. Rachel Stohl explains at the New York Times why US politicians shouldn’t send mix signals about a treaty that matches US interests and that was negotiated by US officials. Larry Bell isn’t as convinced about the ATT’s benefits. 
  • Uhuru Kenyatta, a man who has been charged by the ICC for committing crimes against humanity during the 2007/2008 electoral violence in Kenya, has been sworn in as that nation’s new president. And Kenyatta is proving to be pretty good at politics.
  • US diplomat Anne Smedinghoff was killed in Afghanistan last weekend while on her way to deliver books. The story is evolving. First accounts say she was part of an armored convoy that got bombed, but new reports say she was actually on foot.
  • Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a Taliban attack has left 13 Afghan soldiers dead. The soldiers were part of an elite unit, one of the few deemed to be “fully self-sufficient” by the US.

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Categorised in: East Asia, News Briefs, North America, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Nuclear Security, Regions, Security Issues, Security News, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

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