Test a Nuclear Weapon in the Pacific Ocean

Dave Majumdar

Security, Asia

Yes, it could happen. 

Why North Korea Might Do the Unthinkable: Test a Nuclear Weapon in the Pacific Ocean

The Trump Administration may inadvertently be provoking North Korea into conducting a live-fire test of a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile.

While it is clear that North Korea has both ballistic missile technology and a working hydrogen bomb, the U.S. State Department recently suggested in a tweet that Pyongyang does not have such capabilities. While many prominent international relations experts and former U.S. government officials immediately derided the State Department’s tweet, similar statements in previous decades prompted China to conduct a risky live-five nuclear missile test on October 27, 1966. Pyongyang—feeling the pressure to prove its capabilities—might do the same.

#DPRK will not obtain a nuclear capability. Whether through diplomacy or force is up to the regime @StateDept,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted on October 1 to much derision.

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Prominent detractors immediately noted that Nauert seems to have missed the fact that North Korea already possesses nuclear capability. Indeed, some arms control experts are convinced that such statements are actually provoking the North Koreans, especially when taken together with President Donald Trump’s own bellicose statements. Trump recently sent out a tweet on October 1 that effectively undercut Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts at diplomacy with Pyongyang.

Such statements only embolden North Korea to attempt a so-called Juche Bird live-fire nuclear missile test. “Oh, yes,” Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The National Interest.

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