Stanford scholars assess North Korea's nuclear test

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance at the newly built National Space Development General Satellite Control and Command Centre in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, May 3, 2015.
Photo credit: 
Reuters/KCNA

North Korea claimed it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb on Jan. 6, according to a broadcast from the nation’s Korean Central Television. Experts at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies offered their analyses to media.

Scholars from the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Center (APARC) and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) contributed to a Stanford news release. Although the scholars said they are skeptical of North Korea’s claim, they also said the test would have a destabilizing effect on the region.

In a Q&A, Siegfried Hecker answered nine questions, offering perspective on the situation and how the United States should respond. Hecker, a CISAC senior fellow, is a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and has visited North Korea seven times since 2004.

David Straub, associate director of the Korea Program, commented on the North Korean nuclear program in an NK News article. He said the timing of the nuclear test, now the nation’s fourth, was likely only marginally influenced by external factors such as Kim Jong-un’s birthday. The primary factor is technical, he said. Straub also spoke with Yonhap News on Feb. 12. In the interview, Straub said "although the United States and the People's Republic of China certainly have differences [in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue], they pale in comparison to U.S.-Soviet differences." 

Straub also offered, in an extended interview with South Korea's Segye Ilbo newspaper, his thoughts on Pyongyang's motivations for pursuing nuclear weapons. He argued that the appropriate policy response is to continue to increase pressure on the regime. Pressure applied by Washington is meant to convince Pyongyang that nuclear weapons will bring more cost than benefit, while holding open the door to good-faith negotiations to resolve peninsular issues.

Shorenstein APARC Associate Director for Research Daniel Sneider talked with Al Jazeera America and Slate about the developments. He said the nuclear test signified North Korea’s uneasiness and was largely an accommodation of domestic politics.

In early February, South Korea announced temporary closure of Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a jointly held project with North Korea. In Chosun Ilbo newspaper, Straub argued that South Korea's closure of KIC was a necessary response to North Korea's fourth nuclear test and latest satellite rocket launch. Two articles were published in Korean; the first is available here and the second here.