(Nikkei: January 7, 2016 – p. 7)
By Naoya Yoshino, Washington DC
Following North Korea’s announcement of its first successful hydrogen bomb test, the Obama administration is planning to deal with the issue via international mechanisms underpinned by cooperation between Japan, the U.S. and South Korea. At the same time, Washington will urge China, which has apparently been extending support to the North, to act.
The U.S. Department of State said in its statement that North Korea’s claim that it tested a hydrogen bomb has “yet to be confirmed at this moment” and that it is carefully collecting information.
The U.S. will urge the UN Security Council to come up with a new resolution and impose additional sanction after it confirms North Korea’s nuclear test.
The U.S. has made clear that it will not agree to resume the Six-Party Talks or respond to North Korea’s call for bilateral dialogue unless the North implements specific measures to discontinue its nuclear and missile programs.
Over the past 20 years, North Korea has repeatedly nullified its promises to the U.S. that it would dismantle its nuclear and missile programs. There is little momentum within the U.S. to hold serious negotiations with the North.
Meanwhile, it remains questionable whether the U.S. should maintain the policy of ignoring North Korea if Pyongyang’s claim that it succeeded in carrying out a hydrogen bomb test is true. The prevailing view is that North Korea is steadily building up its technological capabilities by repeatedly conducting nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The U.S. will come under a direct threat if North Korea develops a ballistic missile with a nuclear payload that is capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. It is clear that the North is resorting to “brinkmanship tactics” by using the latest nuclear test to get the U.S. to the negotiating table, but the U.S. may not be able to address North Korea’s nuclear threat if it sticks to the principle of prioritizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. (Abridged)