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North Korea claims first nuclear test

By By Jo Bonner
Early last week, North Korea's official news agency, the Korean Central News Agency, announced to the world that the country had conducted its first nuclear weapons test:
"The field of scientific research in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation.
"…The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the Korean People's Army (KPA) and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability.
"It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it."
It is no secret that North Korea has missiles, and if this latest claim is true, North Korea will be the eighth country with declared nuclear powers. There is no doubt their ultimate goal is to develop the technology to put their nuclear warheads on their missiles.
North Korea has repeatedly ignored warnings from the international community on nuclear and missile testing. This latest action constitutes a threat both to the United States and to the international community; a threat we cannot accept under any circumstance.
A U.S. draft resolution was presented to the United Nations Security Council last week calling for an arms embargo and financial and trade sanctions on North Korea, as well as international inspections of all cargo in and out of North Korea. The draft resolution would bar the import of all luxury goods and demand all nuclear activities cease. North Korea would also have to restart multi-party talks and would have 30 days to comply or face more serious sanctions.
At the writing of this column, a vote on a draft resolution by the United Nations Security Council was imminent. This resolution will be in addition to the action taken in July following North Korea's launch of seven missiles. At that time, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1695 was adopted, requiring all states to exercise vigilance and prevent the transfer and/or procurement of missile-related items or financial resources to or from North Korea.
North Korea has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Its citizens have almost no individual freedoms. Reports of torture, starvation, rape, murder, and forced labor are rampant.
North Korea is a poor country that depends on energy and food assistance from China and South Korea, which is why sanctions can be so effective in this particular circumstance. The United Nations must enforce sanctions until North Korea ends its nuclear program.
Now more than ever, we must continue to work with our international allies and partners to end North Korea's nuclear program. Since 2003, the United States has urged the use of multi-lateral diplomacy to address North Korea's nuclear program, first with trilateral talks with China and later with Six Party Talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States.
North Korea has boycotted the Six Party Talks since late 2005 following steps by the United States to stop North Korean counterfeiting of U.S. currency. The Six Party Talks are important because it keeps the countries in the Pacific region actively engaged in finding a solution.
It should also be noted that North Korea has a record of transferring weapons technology to Iran and Syria. It is no secret that Iran is working aggressively to be the ninth country with nuclear powers, and it will be watching closely as the world reacts to North Korea. The decisions we make now will surely influence their response to demands that they cease their own nuclear program.
The United States must accelerate our missile defense efforts. Just this year, 130 of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle voted to cut more than $9 billion from the ballistic missile defense program.
Now is the time to invest in long term defense systems that will protect Americans from a nuclear attack and to make a decisive stand that North Korea must cease in pursuing its reckless ambitions.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.