A New Nuclear World

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in 2005

At roughly 10:30 Monday morning Pyongyang time, the number of card carrying members of a once exclusive club—those countries armed with nuclear weapons—increased yet again. In a mountainous region 385 km northeast of the North Korean capital, Kim Jong Il's government showed that it was as good as its word when it comes to saber-rattling. After warning last week that it intended to test a nuclear weapon, it did—defying the international community and daring it to do something in response.

Rhetorically, at least, the response was swift. China, typically thought of as the only nation with any influence...