On February 12, 2013, North Korea conducted its third nuclear weapons test since 2006. According to the government, the test was in response to threats posed by the United States. Iran has yet to develop enough enriched nuclear material to come close to testing a military device. The United States and its allies have imposed strict sanctions and the use of intense rhetoric to demonize Iran as a threat to world peace. The response to North Korea has not been nearly as intense, yet that country is clearly more likely to launch a nuclear attack.
The Korean Peninsula is technically still in a state of war. On July 27, 1953, an armistice ending active combat of the Korean Conflict was signed by three of the four parties involved. South Korea did not sign. The border between the two Koreas is heavily militarized by the United States and South Korea. North Korea has initiated, and continues to initiate. many military incursions into the demilitarized zone. In addition to conducting nuclear weapons tests, the North Korean government has stated it possesses missiles that can reach the Unites States. Tests of such missiles have not been successful, but the desire to strike the U.S. is apparent.
North Korea does have nuclear weapons capabilities and the desire to use them. Iran has repeatedly denied a desire to use its enriched uranium for military purposes, and there is still no conclusive proof that is not the case. However, the sanctions imposed against North Korea and the diplomatic rhetoric are not nearly as intense as those imposed against Iran. Current sanctions against North Korea include:
- Restrictions on financial services related to nuclear technology
- Restriction on arms sales
- No comprehensive embargo list
- Controlled but not restricted trade
- Limited ban on financial transactions
- Restrictions on, but no ban on, travel
- Partial trade and financial embargo
- Total ban on travel from North Korea
- Travel to North Korea discouraged
- Some trade to North Korea allowed
- Partial trade embargo
- Travel ban
In the wake of the most recent nuclear test, there is discussion in the UN and by the U.S. to tighten sanctions. Even those, however, will not reach the level imposed against Iran.
In Iran, Russia holds the most influence, and has been the most reluctant to support the sanctions. China is in the same position regarding North Korea. In the wake of this third test, China has expressed some frustration with the North, but has not indicated if they will take any action.
Some say North Korea is using the testing of nuclear weapons and their accompanying rhetoric to raise its credibility in any negotiation that may take place. The fact of the matter is that North Korea possesses military grade nuclear material and has successfully tested a nuclear weapon. North Korea repeatedly threatens the U.S. and South Korea with attack. At state of war technically still exists on the Korean Peninsula. Why isn’t the world concerned?