It is time for the international community to start taking the threats emanating from North Korea more seriously.
It has now become clear that existing sanctions on the country by the United Nations have only made Kim Jong Un and his government bolder. Analysts warn the country is capable of carrying out a fifth underground nuclear test and may do so in response to U.N. sanctions currently being discussed, The Telegraph reports.
"We do not know precisely how much nuclear material the North has in its arsenal, but the estimates are that it has enough for at least a few more of these tests," said Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs in Tokyo.
If clear lines are not drawn over which North Korea recognizes it will not be allowed to cross, the country will most likely opt to continue its nuclear tests or instead, preserve its stockpiles for later confrontations.
"We know that activity has been detected at the North's nuclear test site and it would almost be embarrassing for Kim Jong Un not to respond when the sanctions are announced," Okumura said.
A long-lasting solution from the U.N. on how to respond to North Korea's nuclear ambitions has to be led by the U.S. and China, the two powers most capable of brokering a solution there. The International Business Times reported on Feb. 16 that the two powers are already trying to figure out how to devise an appropriate set of sanctions that the North Korean government will adhere to.
The main challenge is the country's extremely fragile economy. China is the country's main source of food, arms and energy and it has an interest in making sure that the country does not fall completely, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
An economic collapse would worsen the country's current humanitarian crisis and may have the unintended effect of creating further support for the North Korean government, as such a collapse may be largely perceived as the work of foreign powers.
An effective response to North Korea's ambitions is still being sought. China is less supportive of harsh sanctions, viewing such moves as humiliating, which may make it harder for China to work with the U.S. on this issue. But China also has an interest in keeping Kim's ambitions to a minimum and has been ambivalent about possibly defending the nation in the case of a future military conflict.
Whatever the eventual U.N. response ends up being, China will play a key role in determining what actions the North Korean government takes.