North Korea teaching Iran how to extort the West
Analysis: Kim Jong-un is repeatedly implementing his father's 'nuclear extortion' trick, serving as a role model for Tehran's conservative leaders. If Pyongyang indeed conducted a hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, this is very bad news not only for North Korea's neighbors, but also for China and Israel.
Nonetheless, Wednesday morning's news points to North Korea's increasingly developing ability to produce a sophisticated nuclear weapon, and if they don’t have a hydrogen warhead today - they will have one in a year or two. This fact is undisputed even among those who argue that North Korea is falsely claiming to have reached achievements in the nuclear area.
That is why the news from Pyongyang is bad news, even very bad, not only for North Korea's neighbors which are still in a state of war with the country - South Korea and Japan, as well as the United States (which has some 40,000 soldiers stationed on South Korean soil, who are in immediate danger just like the rest of the country's residents). It is also bad and concerning news for China, North Korea's neighbor and only ally, and for Israel.
We are allegedly far away from North Korea and are not directly threatened by it, but since the 1970s to this very day North Korea has been supplying our enemies with missiles and rockets, as well as technologies for their production, which are still threatening us. Most of the missiles and rockets produced in Iran and Syria which are in Hezbollah's hands today originate in North Korea or in the military technologies provided by Pyongyang.
That's not all: In 2006-2007, North Korea provided Syria with a nuclear reactor and plutonium separation facility, which was meant to allow Damascus to create, with the direct help and guidance of North Korean experts, its own atom bomb within a short period of time.
What is a hydrogen bomb?
According to information obtained by the West, Iranian experts were present during the previous nuclear test conducted by North Korea in 2013. It's possible that Iranian experts were also present during the minimized hydrogen bomb test Wednesday morning.
This makes it pretty clear that if North Koreas has indeed succeeded - or will succeed in fitting a hydrogen warhead on a ballistic missile within a year or two - the technology may spill over to Iran within a short period of time. This should concern us as the destruction power of a hydrogen bomb is 100 times worse than the destruction power of a regular atom bomb.
A hydrogen bomb is in fact made of a regular atom bomb which serves as detonator, and of hydrogen fuel mixed with enriched uranium, which multiplies the entire facility's destruction a hundredfold. For example, in a hydrogen explosion conducted by the Soviet Union for the first time in the 1940s, the detonation power was 3,300 times the power of the 30 kiloton explosion of the American bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.
In this context, it should be mentioned that Western experts believe Israel has also succeeded in developing its own hydrogen bomb.
As far as Israel is concerned, the consequences of the North Korean hydrogen bomb test don’t just end in the possibility that the technology will spill over to Iran, which will now also have money to buy such a technology from poor North Korea following Iran's nuclear agreement with the West and the removal of the economic sanctions. North Korea desperately needs oil, and Tehran has plenty of oil to export to Pyongyang.
Even worse is the fact that North Korea presents a model of cheeky defiance and major contempt towards the international community, which serves as a source of imitation for Iran. In addition it uses the nuclear abilities it has accumulated while repeatedly violating the ban on developing and testing a nuclear weapon, in order to pursue a strategy of "nuclear extortion."
This is how it is conducted: At first, North Korea carries out a nuclear test, then it announces that it is willing to disarm of its nuclear capabilities if the West provides it with food, fuel and raw materials. When the West - in other words, the US, Japan and South Korea - gives the ruler what he wants, he reverts to his evil ways, continues to develop the military nukes, conducts another tests and offers the West a deal of food and fuel in exchange for disarmament. And so on and so forth. It happened in the 1990s, it happened in 2006 and it happened against in 2013.
Each time, North Korea violated three international treaties: The Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Surprisingly, although the West is already familiar with the game, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has succeeded in deceiving US President Barack Obama just like his father deceived President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. The West and the international community are standing helpless vis-à-vis a regime which has allowed hundreds of thousands in the country, maybe even millions, to starve to death, as long as it won't have to give up the development of missiles and nuclear weapon.
As mentioned earlier, this model stands before the Iranians' eyes. This is very important because there is a large camp among the conservatives in Iran, led by supreme political and religious leader Ali Khamenei, which sees the nuclear agreement as a surrender which Iran should shake off as soon as it gets the chance to do so.
While Iran cannot disengage from the rest of the world as North Korea is doing, thanks to the Stalinist regime led by a dictator who is the son and grandson of dictators, the defiance and the fact that the West is not working to efficiently curb this insane and extortive nuclear conduct, is showing Khamenei and the heads of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards the way.
For now, they are letting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani convince the West to lift the sanctions, but once the sanctions are removed it's very possible that Iran will go back and adopt the North Korean model. It is in fact already doing so today in terms of the development of its ballistic missiles.
Only on Tuesday, Iran uncovered an underground facility for Emad ballistic missiles, which are capable of reaching way beyond Israel, blatantly violating United Nations Security Council resolutions. Obama has prevented additional sanctions his people had been planning against Iran so as not to harm the implementation of the nuclear agreement.
What will China do?
In light of all this, it's clear why Wednesday's alleged hydrogen explosion should concern Israel. While North Korea is in no rush to share its nuclear weapon technology with other countries - perhaps because it only has six or eight nuclear explosive devices which it might or might not be able to turn into warheads by minimizing them - its advanced abilities concern its neighbor and only ally, China.
In fact, North Korea depends on China in every way. Beijing provides Pyongyang with fuel, food, raw materials and consumer goods. North Korea's only land connection is through China, apart from a small border crossing northeast of Russia. But both China and Russia fear the development of nuclear weapons on North Korea, and if the reports of a hydrogen bomb are verified, it will be very bad news for these two countries too.
With a hydrogen bomb, the small North Korea can also threaten the great China and mainly undermine the stability in the region. Instability in the region can critically harm the Chinese economy and threaten the regime, so the Chinese have also been following the developments with a lot of concern and condemning Wednesday's test.
The question is what will the Chinese do. The sanctions imposed by the West on North Korea hardly affect it. Kim Jon-un is willing to let his citizens die, as long as he gets to wave his nuclear weapon and missiles, but a Chinese decision to remove the economic and diplomatic support will be a very difficult blow for the North Korean regime, and not only for the citizens of this poor country.
In addition, the West can finally impose a tight and serious naval blockade like the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, only this time it will be imposed by an international coalition. So far, the naval blockade on North Korea has limited weapon sales under a Security Council order. North Korean ships transporting weapons have been stopped by American and British warships and their cargo has been seized.
But Pyongyang has found a way around the partial and inefficient embargo. Only a real naval blockade with immoderate Chinese pressure can change something in North Korea. Israel can only hope that this is what will happen.