United Nations Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media on the situation in North Korea on Wednesday. North Korea claims yesterday to have" border="0"/>
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media on the situation in North Korea on Wednesday. North Korea claims yesterday to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images North America)

When Ronald Reagan gave what became known as his "Star Wars" speech in 1983 — outlining his hope that the U.S. could develop a defensive system to "intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies" — he acknowledged that it might "take years, probably decades" to achieve the goal.

Well, it's now been decades since that speech and the U.S. does indeed have a limited missile defense program far more sophisticated than anything in Reagan's day. A top arms control official in the Obama administration told The Denver Post's editorial board last year that "it looks like a very capable system nowadays," which Rose E. Gottemoeller also described as an "insurance policy" for the likes of a rogue regime such as North Korea.

North Korea's detonation of what it claimed Wednesday was a hydrogen bomb — although experts are skeptical — is a reminder of how important it is for the U.S. to continue investing and upgrading its missile defense capabilities. Even if this week's test was some sort of fission weapon of the sort North Korea has tested three other times since 2006, it demonstrates the outlaw regime's continued dedication to the development of nuclear weapons in the face of near universal opposition.

Even China, which alone may have the leverage to bring North Korea to heel on its weapons program, said it "firmly opposes" the test. And no wonder. An H-bomb detonated over Beijing could take out that city, not to mention liquidate the government.


And the same could be said of the capitals of our allies in South Korea and Japan, which will also be within range of North Korea's growing stockpile of nuclear weapons and budding delivery system.

North Korea is already one of the most isolated nations in the world, so there's not a lot of room to squeeze it further. However, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, introduced a bill last year that would require immediate sanctions on companies identified as doing any business with the regime, which is not always the case at the moment. And he expects the committee will consider and vote on this worthy plan sometime soon.

At the time he introduced the bill with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Gardner dubbed North Korea "the forgotten threat."

As of Wednesday, however, that threat is forgotten no more.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.