Editorial: The world is a little different now

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At 8:36 p.m. Central Daylight Time Sunday &8212; while people in the Albert Lea area were watching football, finishing dinner, reading books, spending the day with our families &8212; a small nuclear bomb exploded underground in North Korea.

Scientists say it was a small bomb, between 5 and 15 kilotons, a plutonium reaction smaller than the 21-kiloton plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki. (The Hiroshima bombed used enriched uranium.)

It was the first nuclear bomb detonated on our blue planet since June 1998, Pakistan&8217;s final test during its arms race with India, which also tested that year. The two counties surprised the world with nuclear tests and joined the ranks of states with nuclear weapons.

It&8217;s a sad thought: So little of the world is hellbent on killing each other for such petty ideological reasons that it endangers the existence of the rest of the world, the people who merely try to be good mothers and fathers, good sons and daughters, good brothers and sisters. They work, they go home, and thanks to what can be summed up as worldwide mistrust, they get to live in fear.

If the blast in North Korea is confirmed &8212; which seems only a matter of time &8212; the nation would join the world&8217;s nuclear countries: United States, Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and China. Israel is believed to have nuclear weapons but hasn&8217;t declared.

What&8217;s worse is if North Korea possesses the bomb, an arms race will unsettle the peace in East Asia. To counter the power, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan will seek nukes, further setting back the landmark 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

And if Iran continues on its nuclear path, the age-old fight over whether Persians or Arabs control the Mideast will be on display. Egypt will revive its long dormant atomic program. Others, Saudi Arabia and Syria, might think about nuclear arms. Turkey might get feel safer with nukes, too.

This could be a pivotal moment in history. Where were you at 8:36 p.m. Sunday? To give perspective of how important that blast on Sunday was, think about this: Since the first nuclear test in 1945, the Earth had not gone more than 22 months without a nuclear test until the 98-month stretch that ended on Sunday.

It was a good run.