The assertion from the National Defense Commission that North Korea will conduct further nuclear tests is designed to show off the fact that the authorities see nuclear weapons as a key national security goal and simultaneously underpin the rule of Kim Jong Eun, defectors who lived in the North when Pyongyang conducted its first two nuclear tests have told Daily NK.
However, they also believe that the propaganda effect of nuclear testing is subject to the law of diminishing returns, so for as long as inflation runs unconstrained in the markets there will continue to be widespread annoyance at the astronomical cost of nuclear and ballistic missile testing.
One such defector, Kim Hak Seok, who left North Korea in July last year, explained, “After the next test, the authorities will immediately lay claim to it as one of Kim Jong Eun’s great achievements and reassert that North Korea has become a nuclear state feared worldwide.”
However, Kim stated, “Although after the first nuclear test [in 2006] a lot of people were proud that ‘we are a nuclear state too,’ there was a limit to the effect this could have, since nuclear weapons cannot make you full. Therefore, by the time of the second nuclear test in 2009 most people didn’t seem that interested anymore.”
“After each future test people may momentarily think that ‘we did it again!’ but as time passes they will revert to thinking that the authorities should spend the money on giving them food,” she added.
Another defector, Yang Myung Jin, agreed, saying, “The North Korean authorities have not said how much the missile launches and nuclear tests cost, therefore the people do not really know for sure; however, they will eventually hear that it was hundreds of millions of dollars from Party cadres.”
He went on, “North Korea is conducting nuclear tests for internal reasons: to show the cadres and people alike how powerful Kim is, and to generate internal solidity. I have no clue whether the cadres with agree with this idea, but I do know that it will have the opposite effect on the people.”