North Korea detonated a new nuclear device. It's felt this was a Uranium weapon, which is easier to make and smaller but has a limited yield in destructive force. That said, it was significantly more powerful than North Korea's Plutonium tests which were judged to be not completely successful.
The experts feel North Korea is about 3 years away from a deliverable by missile. Though they may be able to get a deliverable by artillery quicker, which would be more reliable. That and the potential for nuclear torpedoes are all there.
The situation in this part of the word, between the island disputes, hot topic arguments about the histories of these countries, and now the advancement of the North's nuclear arsenal are severely troubling.
I would feel somewhat reassured that economic concerns trump political ones, in that these disputes could be handled in back-room channels to alleviate concerns so business can be done. But North Korea is a real wild card that is going to freak everyone out. I can't see Japan staying out of the arms race much longer with such a threat near them.
Nobody wants to go to war. But we're moving into a situation of escalation that may tip off and lead to it.
Diplomacy will likely stall things out for awhile. But the North Koreans march forward. Even if they don't decide to utilize these weapons offensively, it's very likely due to their money concerns that they would engage in selling their nuclear arms and technology to anyone willing to pay. Even if the Government in Pyongyang were to deny that from happening, the individual Generals are all corrupt and could make deals themselves behind the leadership's back.
Imagine being able to purchase a nuclear weapon for a million dollars. Slave labor could allow the North Koreans to produce uranium weapons for incredibly cheap prices. These could be smuggled out through China or Russian borders, or even by way of sea.
As time goes forward, they will continue to miniaturize their weapons and make them harder to detect.
With the Iranians also moving forward on this. The world is becoming much more dangerous. The people who should not have such weapons are getting them. It is only a matter of time now before the worst of the worst have them.
Politicians will dance around the topic because they won't want to go to war. Meanwhile yours and my safety will be the sacrifice for when their diplomacy fails.
If I lived in NY City or Washington DC I would move if I could. Everyday the odds increase that these two places will be leveled at some point in the future.
It's the proliferation that's the good possibility. I don't see North Korea firing off a couple missiles and then having their country turned into a parking lot from us obliterating it. Though, they are very cult like and cults are known to do completely insane things.
However, their lack of money is great and their needs many. If someone agreed to pay them for the technology to either make a bomb of their own, or to purchase one outright, I don't see why the North would say No to this. Especially if those Governments are viewed to them as friends and enemies of us.
At one point, for instance, North Korea shipped missiles to Yemen. We stopped the boat, but Yemen protested and we had to let them through because of treaties with Yemen. Such sales are common for the North. They sell weapon systems, especially missiles, to countries that do not have the best relations with the UN Security Council.
Pakistan had one man, Khan, give Nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. One made the bomb, one is making the bomb, and the third gave their's up before it was started. It will only spread further.
What will really happen if they launch a missile: Assuming it doesnt explode on the launch pad, it will be shot down over the ocean by the American missile defense system that people question the existence of, and everyone will realize the military wasn't bullshitting anyone.
what will probably happen: nothing. China will feign concern. The only way I see the North going down is if China feels the US will try to do it first. After all, they only let North Korea exist to keep American bases away from their border. If things truly get out of hand they'll sweep in and install a puppet, and make North Korea some sort of 21st century vassal.
Again, it's not really the threat of the North launching a missile and hitting the U.S. (They could hit Japan or South Korea without much bother.) That would be the end of their country if they did that. They are freakish and may see themselves as having no other choice if their country were to implode. But the time it would take them to fuel a missile would enable us to shoot it on the launch platform before they ever got it off the ground. At least for right now. Time moves forward and their missile technology continues to improve.
The danger is terrorism and other Governments having access to this technology. Or worse, the weapons themselves. The North could easily manufacture weapons to sell on the black market. These could be brought over and detonated by container ship before inspection and wipe out parts of most coastal cities. We can't stop drugs from entering the country. A determined effort to bring a nuclear device into the country would meet success. The only reason it hasn't is because...
(A) There are only a few players who have nukes and the majority are friendly to us.
(B) The cost to purchase a bomb would be incredibly expensive.
Most countries have enemies themselves and wouldn't want to have their own weapons used against themselves. Pakistan and Russia for instance would not proliferate because it's more likely their own internal problems would come back to haunt them.
But North Korea is different. They can manufacture a Uranium weapon for very cheap prices. Because they don't pay their labor. And they would have no qualms to selling to our enemies. In fact, I imagine they'd embrace it. Since they so tightly control their borders. There is little chance their own exports would be used against them.
Logically, we might be able to figure out that the nuclear device came from North Korea. I believe they can detect where the Uranium signature came from. (Not sure if this is true of Uranium or just Plutonium) But that might not be enough for us to attack their country, especially if they've stocked up on nuclear weapons. South Korea would be dust. Japan would certainly be struck. And the nuclear fall out would be tremendous.
What's the alternative? Right now, I don't see one. Kim Jong Un seems to be following the military's lead and he is young and will not likely be out of power in my lifetime. That means they will continue their escalation and we will find ourselves in a war.
I hope not. I just can't see how it changes.