September 09, 2016

CNAS Press Note: North Korea’s Nuclear Test

Washington, September 9 – On news that North Korea had conducted a nuclear test, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Elbridge Colby and CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper have written a new Press Note, “North Korea’s Nuclear Test."

The full Press Note is below:

North Korea's apparent nuclear test last night suggests Pyongyang's further progress toward advanced nuclear weapons, especially ones that can be mounted on ballistic missiles. This is highly disturbing, particularly for the United States and its allies in Northeast Asia, especially Japan and South Korea. If the North is able to achieve the technology able to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile, and produce a significant number of such nuclear-tipped missiles, Pyongyang will pose a markedly increased threat to the security of all three nations, as well as others in the region. 

The failure to prevent the North's further development and testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles shows why it is so important for the United States, Japan, and South Korea to take steps to strengthen their defenses, individually, bilaterally, and together. Recent progress has been made with decisions on THAAD deployment in the ROK and on long-delayed steps to improve Japan-ROK cooperation. These and similar efforts should move forward to augment missile defenses and other capabilities needed to defend against and negate the North's threat. 

Especially important is China. Thus far, while Beijing has appeared to show some displeasure with the North, it has noticeably refused to exert the kind of pressure that would change Pyongyang's calculus about moving forward on these programs. Beijing has hamstrung international efforts to exert pressure on North Korea by nominally agreeing to U.N. Security Council sanctions while failing to enforce them fully and helping to prop up this odious regime. China is the only country with the leverage to change the North's calculus. Especially disturbing and unjustified is Beijing's critique of Seoul's decision to deploy missile defenses to defend against the DPRK's large missile arsenal. China must act to place the requisite pressure on North Korea to halt and ultimately roll back its nuclear and missile programs, which pose a growing grave threat to the region and the United States and violate multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions. 

This latest test guarantees that the North Korean nuclear challenge will be at the top of the list of the next president's toughest national security challenges.


Colby and Rapp-Hooper are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at or 202-457-9409.


  • Elbridge Colby

  • Mira Rapp-Hooper

    Former Adjunct Senior Fellow, Asia-Pacific Security Program

    Mira Rapp-Hooper is a former Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Security Program at CNAS. She is formerly a Fellow with the CSIS Asia Program and Director of the CSIS...