U.S. intelligence has confirmed for the first time that the explosion set off by North Korea last week was indeed a nuclear blast. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepares to visit Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing to urge robust implementation of the new U.N. Security Council resolution punishing North Korea for its nuclear weapons test.
There are serious questions about how vigorously the resolution will be implemented. The resolution was watered down for China to agree to it -- and even so, China has expressed reservations about the idea of interdictions of North Korean cargo.
Talking to reporters at the United Nations, China's Ambassador Wang Guangya said, "Inspections -- yes. But inspections is different from interception and interdictions. In that area, I think different countries will do it in different ways."
Peter Hayes, of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development, says both China and South Korea are unlikely to agree to force down aircraft or stop and search ships -- actions they fear could spark a military showdown with North Korea.
"The realistic probability that it will export at all is low," Hayes said. "This is a precious commodity for their own self-defense. They have just blown up about 10 percent of the fissile material that they already have."
U.S. officials initially raised doubts about whether North Korea really did stage an underground nuclear test on Oct. 9. But in a brief statement, the office of the National Intelligence Director said that the U.S. detected radioactive debris. It estimated that the explosion was less than 1 kiloton, which is relatively small.
However, there is some speculation now that North Korea may carry out another test soon.