Yesterday, word leaked out that North Korea, the world’s most closed society, is getting ready to perform its third nuclear weapon test, following earlier tests in 2006 and 2009. If true, it would come on the heels of a recent failed rocket test (supposedly a step toward the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States) and saber-rattling threatening to reduce the South Korean government to “ashes.”
In response, White House spokesman Jay Carney warned North Korea against “engaging in any more hostile or provocative actions.” As we watch to see what North Korea does next, this is an opportune time for the United States to reassess its own policies on nuclear tests—not only because of the political landscape, but also because of changes in science.
One of the simplest first steps toward escaping the nuclear menace that has haunted us for more than 65 years would be to encourage a worldwide ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. It is hard to see a downside to such a move, as it would also help constrain the ability of current non-nuclear states to develop nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the U.S. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has managed to block implementation of an international Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty for the past 15 years.