Kim Jong-eun

A video grab from North Korean TV on March 20 shows Kim Jong-Un overseeing a live fire military drill (North Korean TV/AFP/Getty)

A video grab from North Korean TV on March 20 shows Kim Jong-eun overseeing a live fire military drill (North Korean TV/AFP/Getty)

Taking weeks of shrill rhetoric and threats to a fresh high on Tuesday, North Korea announced plans to restart a shuttered plutonium reactor and increase production of enriched uranium. So did we just move one step closer to nuclear armageddon? Here’s a reading list of comment and analysis to help gauge the hazard level.

  • Our own Gideon Rachman argues that there is still “an unfortunate tendency in the west” to treat North Korea as a bit of a joke. “In reality, the Pyongyang regime is about as unfunny as it gets.” He warns that the US and South Korea are responding to North Korea as if it is a rational adversary – “but the unsettling reality is that we cannot be sure.”
  • What do North Korea’s air defenses look like? Foreign Policy has the answer. (Spoiler: they look quite old, as they’re largely from the 60s, 70s and 80s).

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South Koreans protest this week about a possible North Korean nuclear test. (AP)

This is turning out to be a rather fraught time for people who worry about the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. In recent days, there has been much dismay about the way talks are going between world powers and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Iran does not look like it wants to make the kind of concessions that the US and its allies seek if there is to be a deal that averts Israeli or US military action over the programme.

Now it looks like there is about to be bad news from the world’s other nuclear pariah state – North Korea. All the signs are that Pyongyang is about to conduct another nuclear test, its third since 2006 and potentially one that is far bigger than the two it has conducted previously.

Nobody can be 100 per cent sure that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon in the next few days. But the signs are growing that something is afoot. North Korea announced last month that it would conduct a nuclear test to protest against UN Security Council sanctions, stating it would be an explosion at a “higher level” than has been seen in the past. Read more

Here’s what piqued our interest today: 


This handout picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency shows the statues of former North Korean President Kim Il Sung (L) and late leader Kim Jong Il (R) riding on horses together after being unveiled at the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang on February 14, 2012

KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

Let’s face it, equestrian statues have since ancient times been an effective way for countries/governments/propaganda machines to honour their leaders and heroes (the earliest preserved equestrian statue is the Rampin Rider, found in the Acropolis).

So perhaps it is not surprising that North Korea decided to cast a larger-than-life bronze version of their late leader, Kim Jong-il, and his father Kim Il-sung, both gripping the reins of two rather spectacular ponies (the contrasting postures of the riders and their steeds are rather interesting – share your thoughts on any coded messages in the comments below).  Read more