Though it does not come as a surprise that the regime in Pyongyang just completed its third nuclear-weapons test, it certainly does not make anyone feel better. Initial confirmation of North Korea's third nuclear test came when international monitors detected an unusual seismic event that registered 4.9 on the Richter scale.
President Barack Obama labeled the test a "highly provocative act" and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared the test a "grave threat." What is making some people stop and take notice though is that China, arguably North Korea's only ally, has joined the chorus to condemn this latest test. Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi called in North Korea's ambassador to explain how "strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed" to the test China was. This comes at a time when there appear to be more and more voices within China calling for a reexamination of its current policy towards a country that it believed was once as close to it as "lips and teeth."
There was widespread speculation that North Korea would conduct this particular test prior to the inauguration of the new South Korean president Park Geun-hye on February 25. This would serve not only as a sort of final thumb in the eye to current President Lee Myung-bak, whose more hard-line tactics have engendered some extreme hyperbolic vitriol from Pyongyang, but would also not totally hamstring president-elect Park when she takes office from considering new negotiation tactics with her neighbor to the North.
Yet shouldn’t this latest nuclear provocation make us all stop and take a beat? Whatever the international community is, or isn’t, doing with regard to North Korea simply isn’t working. U.N. Security Council resolutions, sanctions and being made into an international pariah have done very little to stop one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear provocateurs. What is more, they keep getting better at it, or so it would appear. This test seems to be larger than those of 2006 and 2009, and this comes on the heels of the December 12, 2012 Unha-3 rocket launch of a long-range ballistic missile.
We need to collectively put on our creative-thinking caps to come up with a more effective policy towards North Korea. Our current playbook is growing increasingly tired.