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(News Focus) H-bomb test claim shows N.K. has no intention of negotiating away nuclear program: U.S. experts

2016/01/06 14:53

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's claims of a successful H-bomb test put the communist nation on a collision course with the international community and underlined that the regime has no intention of negotiating away its nuclear program, U.S. experts said Tuesday.

North Korea announced earlier that it has successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test, claiming that the test means "a higher stage of the DPRK's development of nuclear force" and that the country "proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear weapons states possessed of even an H-bomb."

   If confirmed, the test will mark the North's fourth nuclear test.

"North Korea has underlined yet again that going forth in its relations with South Korea and the United States, North Korea will not put its nuclear program on the table," Ken Gause, a senior North Korea analyst at CNA Corp., said in comments sent to Yonhap News Agency.

"Apparently North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has come to the conclusion that finding a way forward diplomatically is not possible with the administrations in Seoul and Washington as long as their current North Korea policies are in effect," he said.

Gause also said that the North will face sanctions and rupture growing relations with China and the South.

The test also "reflects glory internally on Kim Jong-un," he said.

"Since he can't show progress on the economic front, he has doubled down on his security bona fides. He plays the national prestige card while painting the United States as a threat," the expert said.

The North's leader also wants to have something "impressive" to show for his time in power going into the 7th Workers' Party Congress set for May, Gause said.

"If that could not be a major breakthrough in inter-Korean relations and the economy, then it will be through juche and an enhancement of the nuclear deterrent," he said.

The North previously conducted three underground nuclear tests: in 2006, 2009 and 2013. The country has also conducted a series of long-range missile and rocket launches since 1998. In its most recent launch in late 2012, the North succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit.

Analysts have warned that it is only a matter of time until the North develops nuclear-tipped missiles. Some experts have recently warned that the communist nation's nuclear arsenal could expand to as many as 100 bombs by 2020.

Scott Snyder, a senior expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that Wednesday's test put the communist nation "on a collision course with the international community."

   It will be a "challenge to the U.N. to come up with a sanctions regime that goes beyond verbal condemnations to exact real physical costs on North Korea for its defiance -- or risk serious damage to the nuclear nonproliferation regime," he said.

Bruce Klingner, a senior Korea expert at the Heritage Foundation, called the North's claim "a dangerous development" and urged the administration of President Barack Obama to work actively on the problem and impose stronger sanctions.

"North Korea's nuclear test is a serious and irreparable violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions. It reflects Pyongyang's continued pursuit of its prohibited nuclear weapons programs in open defiance of the international community," he said.

Klingner also pointed out that the North has repeatedly asserted it has no intention of ever abandoning its nuclear weapons and even revised its constitution to enshrine itself as a nuclear weapons state.

"North Korea's continuing improvement and augmentation of its nuclear arsenal threatens the United States and its allies," the expert said.

"It is time for the Obama administration to abandon its policy of timid incrementalism and fully implement existing U.S. laws by imposing stronger sanctions on North Korea and work with Congress to determine additional measures," he said.

The six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean standoff have been stalled since late 2008. North Korea demands the unconditional resumption of negotiations, while the U.S. says that Pyongyang must first take concrete steps to demonstrate its denuclearization commitments.

Analysts have said that North Korea stands low on the U.S. priority list and that the Obama administration has little interest in resuming nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang as it has been preoccupied with Middle East issues, such as Iran's nuclear program and the militant group Islamic State.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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