The test does imply, however, that the regime has enough weapons spare not to worry about losing one of them by testing. This probably means that it has more than the one or two weapons it was assessed to have by US intelligence a few years ago, and may have as many as 10.
Yet the test is more a sign of weakness than of strength. Though analysing what goes on at the top of the isolationist regime is difficult, some analysts have speculated that Kim Jong Il is under internal pressure. The country is plagued by food shortages – exacerbated by a drop in food aid from China and other countries – and has seen economic sanctions erode its ability to earn foreign exchange.
It also contains this biting analysis of the change in US policy under the Bush administration:
North Korea’s probable test of a nuclear weapon on Monday has triggered the second nuclear crisis in 13 years on the Korean peninsula.
In 1993, North Korea announced it would pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, leaving it free to divert nuclear material from its energy reactors to make a nuclear weapon and setting off a round of crisis diplomacy led by the Clinton administration. The result was the so-called agreed framework, which – in return for supplies of fuel oil to North Korea – froze most aspects of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme for the rest of the decade.
The agreed framework was in effect consigned to history when the Bush administration came to power in 2001. The new administration argued that although the road to a plutonium-based nuclear bomb had been frozen, the North Koreans were cheating by attempting to develop a uranium-based bomb that was not explicitly addressed by the agreement.
That five years later, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon will be widely interpreted as a sign of the failure of the tougher approach favoured by the Bush team.
Back in 2002, Bush stood before an audience in Cincinnati and declared that there was an "Axis of Evil" consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
Isn't it a shame that he chose to invade the one nation-state on that list that actually DID NOT have a nuclear program?