In the past few days, North Korea conducted a nuclear test in the mountains of Kilju, close to the Chinese border. While experts debate the size of the weapon, the detonation appears to have been more successful than North Korea’s previous nuclear test in 2006. The United Nations Security Council, notably with the support of both China and Russia, has unanimously condemned North Korea’s actions and is working on new sanctions against Kim Jong Il’s regime. What prompted Kim Jong Il, now in poor health and looking at issues of succession, to conduct a nuclear test now? With the Chinese-hosted Six Party Talks stalled, how should the United States respond?
On May 27, the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion on the North Korea nuclear crisis and its implications for the United States and the region. Panelists Richard Bush, senior fellow and director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow and director of research for the 21st Century Defense Initiative, and Dennis Wilder, visiting fellow with the John L. Thornton China Center, provided their analyses of the evolving situation in North Korea. Carlos Pascual, vice president and director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, panelists took audience questions.