When North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on September 3, an automated seismic station run by an U.N.-affiliated group detected that it was equivalent to a magnitude 6.1 earthquake.
The aftermath of the explosion was severe. The shaking caused by the test triggered several landslides throughout the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, according to the analysis group 38 North. South Korea also reported that traces of radioactive material were detected, though the amount is not believed to be enough to enough to harm South Koreans health.
Immediately after the test, the Chinese Meteorological Administration warned residents in northern China about possible nuclear pollution. On September 8, the Ministry of Environmental Protection reported that they have not detected radioactive material.
In addition to the environmental impacts, there is a political fallout from the nuclear test. Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council that Pyongyang is “begging for war.”
Charles Armstrong, Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies at Columbia University, said the U.S. finds it very difficult to see the world from the perspective of North Korea.
“What they [North Koreans] see is a very hostile region, with South Korea, their archenemy, facing them, Japan, an old enemy, China, not exactly a trustworthy ally, and then the U.S., the world’s most powerful country, facing them with enormous firepower,” Mr. Armstrong told Think Progress. He noted that Pyongyang thinks there will be a balance of powers, if it has the ability to strike back at Washington.
“I don’t think Kim Jong-un really means a war with the United States. What he wants is dialogue and negotiation with the United States for his regime security,” Dr. Hak-yin Li, lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told The Globe Post.
Yet the Trump administration’s response to Pyongyang’s nuclear aspirations is a mix of military and diplomatic actions against North Korea. The U.S. is now calling for a U.N. vote to impose new sanctions on the regime, which will prohibit it from importing “crude oil, condensate, refined petroleum product and natural gas liquids” and from exporting its fastest growing sector – textiles.
Mr. Trump said during a press conference this week: “I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it’s something certainly that could happen.”
Dr. Li suggested that the problem is that the U.S. insists any negotiation should be based on the dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
He explained: “It means that Kim could not get the American assured security guarantee unless he gives up nuclear weapons first, so that’s why Kim is making all the ways to deter Washington, and hopefully the United States could talk to Kim without any prerequisites.”
Since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, the country has faced economic sanctions imposed by multiple countries and international entities that target its major industries. But the sanctions have never worked.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his doubts on whether sanctions would ever deter the regime’s nuclear ambitions. “They would rather eat grass but will not give up the [nuclear] program if they do not feel safe,” Mr. Putin said.
China hinted that it will support “further reaction and necessary measures” on North Korea, but emphasized that sanctions are just half of the resolution. Beijing maintains that dialogue and negotiation are as important as punitive measures.
“By insisting dialogue, China could help to communicate between North Korea and the United States,” Dr. Li said. “I would say there is not much [other] countries [like Russia, or the U.S.] can do since China will not implement a comprehensive sanction because of the fear of refugees and a failed state if Kim’s regime cannot survive.”
Meanwhile, South Korea warned this week of that Pyongyang could conduct a new intercontinental ballistic missile test soon to celebrate its founding anniversary on September 9. Last year, the regime conducted its fifth nuclear test to celebrate the date.