North Korea on Tuesday vowed to conduct a nuclear test to bolster its defenses against the United States, dramatically raising tensions in the region and marking the communist government's first ever unambiguous public threat to demonstrate itself as a nuclear power.
Although North Korea has verbally declared that it possesses nuclear devices -- U.S. intelligence officials have estimated they may now have as many as a half dozen or more -- it has yet to take the final provocative step of testing one. Such a move has been widely viewed by analysts as one that would force the Bush administration and regional powers, including China, Japan and South Korea, to deal far more harshly with the North Koreans.
I'm not sure how much more "harshly" we could deal with North Korea. The Bush administration is determined not to reward North Korea for it's bad behavior, and Bush-ian logic has us putting our sights on Iran, who does not yet possess a nuke, instead of North Korea. In fact I suspect North Korea is tired of all the attention that Iran is getting, and is determined to take back some of the spotlight. A missile test might not do it, but this-if they're serious-almost certainly will.
That's my idle speculation however, and no one really knows yet if North Korea's serious. I'll find some better analysis than mine and blog about it at a later point.