The North Korean nuclear test seems to have been rather less impressive than it first appeared and been rather counter productive.
The BBC reports that most observers now seem to think the explostion was less than 1kT which implies more of a fizzle than a bang. Combine this with the equally fizzly rocket testing earlier this year and it looks a little like the DPRK has managed to call its own bluff. In other words the North Koreans have demonstrated clear intent but failed to demonstrate ability. It may be cynical but the only clear beneficiaries of the North's fizzled attempts at blackmail are Shinzo Abe and his colleagues in Japans LDP
My hypothesis has been that the North Koreans conducted the test as a way try and blackmail other countries to give it stuff and that it is doing so because the current sanctions are really hurting it. Unfortunately for North Korea, it seems to have failed to read the reactions correctly: countries such as the USA and Japan have increased sanctions on the state and its leadership and got the UN to pass a resolution implementing sanctions. Critically China seems likely to go along with them, or at least not flout them, which means that North Korea is indeed in trouble. Or rather the current leadership is indeed in trouble. Only more ostrich parts of the S Korean governing party seem willing to keep on paying the Danegeld game and even they may be constrained by the possiblity that their own trade may be impacted if it is considered to be connected to the North.
The question is what happens next. I am fairly sure that some individual N Korean scientists and engineers are going to be receiving a certain amount of re-education for their part in these failures. This seems likely to be counter-productive if the N Koreans want their weaponsmakers to improve and can only be a good thing for global security. If I am correct and the North Korean leadership is losing control of lower parts of its government then we could well see regime collapse. This is likely to be a major issue for China and S Korea who could well be flooded with refugees, but it ought not to be beyond their ability to provide large refugee camps on the borders and also start providing food and other aid throughout the North thus reducing the refugee problem. Thus in the shorter term the collapse of the current N Korean regime need not be the total catastrophe that China and S Korea fear.
Unfortunately I'm in the pessimist camp with regards to the longer term. I'm not so sure that all the lessons of East Germany will apply. N Korea is far less industrialized so simply giving ts villages some of the benefits of the green revolution ought to make a big difference in terms of getting the country to feed itself. But feeding itself is more of a interim stage than an end goal and building up N Korean infrastructure and industry could be a very long task. This is unlikely to be asissted by the likely mental degradation of those who were children or teenagers during the famines of the last ten or more years.
The other question is what happens to/in Iran. One lesson the Iranians can learn is that a nuke or missile test is only effective as a threat if it is successful and that, as far as I can tell, Iran could well face sanctions if it actually tests a bomb either way.