Analysis: Why would Pyongyang fake it, and what are the implications for Iran?

This attention will probably be temporary and it will likely not stop or slow down the Iran deal.

January 13, 2016 09:40
2 minute read.
Kim Jong-un, North Korea leader

Kim Jong-un, North Korea leader. (photo credit: KNS / KCNA / AFP)


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Why would North Korea fake a nuclear test? What does all of this mean for the Iran nuclear deal? North Korean propagandists apparently faked footage released last week of a submarine- launched ballistic missile test done in December. It used rudimentary editing techniques to crop and flip footage of an earlier test and a Scud missile launch, analysis by the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies showed.

The footage was released two day’s after Pyongyang claimed that it conducted its fourth nuclear test – in defiance of a UN ban – of a more advanced and powerful hydrogen bomb last Wednesday. The claim drew skepticism from the US government and experts.

The provocative claim by North Korea that it made a giant scientific leap, and the blatantly falsified footage, show how desperate Pyongyang is to be noticed, with all of the focus on Iran in recent years.

The isolated country has accomplished that goal.

It will likely face new US sanctions and possible new UN sanctions, and has taken over headlines for the past week.

But this attention will probably be temporary. Likewise, the test will likely not stop or slow down the Iran deal.

Iran has fulfilled most of what it signed on to, and where it has not, the US and the other Western powers have given clear signs that they will look the other way. So the real question is whether this test matters at all once the initial shock passes and a determination is made as to whether or not it was a fake.

But what is more important than whether North Korea’s specific test was a success or not and whether the bomb was a hydrogen bomb or not, is whether Pyongyang’s test means it has advanced its technology sufficiently for mounting a nuclear device on a missile.

This would bring North Korea closer to being a threat in terms of the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead.

There would also be a greater danger that a transfer of North Korean technology could help Iran get past some obstacles that analysts believe it currently faces in its missile delivery experiments.

Such a technology swap could have an impact on Iran’s willingness to adhere to the nuclear deal down the road, and on its calculations about whether to try to break out.

For these reasons, the world might consider paying more substantive attention to North Korea on a continual basis.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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