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Yesterday's test proves only one thing - North Korea doesn't yet have a really workable nuclear warhead. Certainly, nothing that could be effectively carried by a missile to U.S. territory.

Call it a weapon of less-than-mass destruction.

At half a kiloton yield, that was a fizzle -- an incomplete implosion of the nuclear core caused by a faulty design.

Either the device they lit off in a mine shaft yesterday was pathetically inefficient -- achieving a very low yield, only about 1/30 of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima blast (CBS News) -- or, it may not even have been a nuclear explosion, at all. A short freight train filled with TNT would achieve the same results. A few years ago, a NK rail depot was wrecked when a train hauling conventional artillery shells exploded. At first, some suspected a nuclear test.

This shows that the state of NK's nuclear program is actually pretty primative. A low-yield device of this sort could be built at almost any university if they had the plutonium.

I wouldn't sleep very well if I were the head of their nuclear design team.

We won't know what the source of the blast was until a western laboratory "sniffs" some vented radioactive materials from an airborne sample.

One way or the other, that wasn't a very impressive entry into the nuclear club.

This isn't the Cuban Missile Crisis -- the Russians had thousands of H-bombs, some as large as 50 megatonnes - don't let them stampede you into believing that this is an existential crisis, unless the Bush Administration turns it into one.

It's more of a display of bad judgment, a gift from one twisted dynastic son to another.

Originally posted to leveymg on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 05:58 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "flop" isn't the point (9+ / 0-)

    The point is that they've had enough weapons-grade plutonium for several years, and Bush made nothing more than a very weak, very general effort to even look in the direction of North Korea.

    Iran doesn't have nukes.  North Korea does, no matter how crappy they (or that one) was.

    This isn't a good thing.  This isn't something to be taken lightly or dismissed.  Kim Jong-Il is not a harmless person.  This is truly an issue, because the most powerful nation in the world didn't even care.  We'd rather spend time starting a war over lies about WMDs than actually make an effort to talk to a country that actually has them.

    Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!

    by Page van der Linden on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:00:33 AM PDT

    •  I agree with you. (5+ / 0-)

      Just pointing out that this isn't the Cuban Missile Crisis, just in case someone wants us to believe it.

      This is not a good thing - but, it would be even more troubling if they had matched Oppenheimer's 1945 results.

      My conclusion is that someone, in fact, did their job very well.

      •  yeah (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high5, kraant

        This is scary stuff.  To bad the sane part of our government left in early 2001.  Cowboy deplomacy is a complete failure.

      •  I get the spirit of your diary, of course (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        like what theboz said in his/her comment (sorry, theboz, after all this time I still don't know your gender!).

        The whole nuke proliferation issue is so damned complicated.  It's more tangled than just "no nukes" or "some nukes are ok" or... well, you know what I mean.

        Anyway, at least people realize that it's an escalating problem (uh, Bush doesn't count, because he can only look at one country at a time, the moron).

        Thanks for the diary.  It's sparking discussion, and that's what counts.

        Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!

        by Page van der Linden on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:25:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  storage capacity of Bush's brain (0+ / 0-)

          No, not Karl Rove.

          But rather the honest-to-goodness capacity of his cranium. I would argue that we have ample evidence that this President does not have the mental wherewithal to focus on too many things at once. Say, for instance, any plurality of things. Meaning, more than one thing.

          Incurious. I always liked that moniker for Shrubya. Which is politspeak for dumb.

          But we all knew this going in.

          Low expectations.

          We got what we paid for.

          Like some other people have mentioned in diaries lately, I wonder if the media, which almost seems to be showing a shadow of their former selves, will actually follow the reasoning, and question the logic used for the Iraqmire, point out the logical fallacy of NOT doing anything about NK when they said they already HAVE weapons grade fuel, and why they have been so insistent upon rattling our scabbard at Iran (because our sabre is busy in Iraq).

          Oh, and a side point to people worrying about SK. A bit of reading will inform you that NK has roughly 30k pieces of artillery (some in hollowed-out caves with rail systems) aimed at Seoul. NK would not need to use a nuke to knock a BIG hole in Seoul if they wanted to. They could level most of the city, conventionally in a matter of a couple of hours, and there would not be much that SK or the US could do about it.

          I would posit that perhaps the only thing staying Lil' Kim's hand is the possibility of retaliation.

          Then again, Lil' Kim is certifiable. His mental disorders rival some of the big conservative pundits (Limp-bough, Coultergeist, MalKKKin, O'Falafel, etc.).

          I am sure I had a point here somewhere...

          (shuffles off aimlessly looking for shreds of his argument...)

          • SS

          On forced conformity - "Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard." - Justice Robert Jackson (1943)

          by Skeptical Spectacle on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 07:31:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'd say NK's bomb was the perfect size (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onanyes, serrano, kraant, Rex Manning

    big enough to demonstrate the absurdity of the Bush administration's foreign policy, small enough not to set off a nuclear attack by the idiots in charge of Bush's foreign policy.

    •  You're giving them too much credit - they don't (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      subtropolis, kraant

      have any reason for building mini-nukes, and it wouldn't make sense to test one.

      No, they wanted the biggest bang they could get for test shot #1.  This was a fizzle.

      •  Has anyone besides Kim Jong-Il (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kraant, Rex Manning

        claimed it was a nuke?

      •  Disagree (0+ / 0-)

        If you have a limited stockpile of fissile material, you might well want to ration it out.  You would only need your test shot to be big enough to prove you had a nuke.  

        This morning's Washington Post reports that Pyongyang provided China with advance notice of the test, and told them that it would yield only about four kilotons.  That's fairly small, and making a little bomb is in many ways harder than making a big one.  The fact that the North failed to test a 4-KT device shouldn't be taken as proof that they can't make a 20-KT bomb.

        •  It's much harder to build a working mini-nuke (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Manufacturing miniaturized nuclear components isn't easy.  For a first test, it's unlikely that they would intentionally choose a design that yields only 4 kt, or .5kt.

          Sounds like the Post's source got creative, after the fact.  I could be wrong.  But, this low-yield approach doesn't make much sense, even if one is trying to be thrifty with one's stock of fissible material.

          It's much harder to design and build a mininuke than the 1945 "Fat Boy", particularly using plutonium. It has to do with the way the nuclear material has to be compressed all at once inside of a sphere in order to produce a high-yield explosion. Otherwise, you get a slow-burn nuclear sparkler, which is what this appears to have been.

          It's altogether implausible that NK could build a suceessful mini-nuke. A medium-sized fission bomb is easiest, and that's the fastest, cheapest approach to becoming a nuclear power. After BushCo took power, that's exactly what NK decided they had to do. Because of the poverty of this Administration's diplomacy, this is the result.

          A very dangerous impasse. Now what do we do?

          •  You're speculating (0+ / 0-)

            I agree that it would be easier to build a Trinity-sized device than a smaller one.  That doesn't mean, however, that the North didn't try to build a low-yield device and failed.

            In fact, if they did try for a 4-KT detonation, the apparent fizzle yield is a little more understandable.

            •  I think we don't disagree about that. (0+ / 0-)

              My impression is that NK got its design from China.

              It's also my impression that China realy doesn't want Pyongpang to be an actual nuclear power.  A nuclear war started by the Dear Leaders would endanger everything Beijing has been been trying to create for itself - like becoming the World's leading economic power within this century.

              So, if I were an intelligent agent of Chinese intelligence (or the Agency of any other country), I wouldn't want to see il-Jong with an arsenal of working nukes.

              Just speculation.

              •  Fair enough (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                If the DPRK got a mini-nuke design from China and couldn't make it work -- either because the design was deliberately bad or merely beyond Pyongyan's ability to manufacture -- then I would expect them to eventually go back to the larger device designed by Oppenheimer & Co.

                We know that one worked on the first try.

                •  That redesign should take a while (0+ / 0-)

                  Let's hope the Russians are just spinning, as they've claimed to have estimated the NK device at 10 kt, which would be about perfect for a low-ball estimate of 4 kt allegedly given China the day before.

                  I'd like to see some independent estimate -- say from the UN -- soon.

                •  As for the design source, China by way of AQ Khan (0+ / 0-)

                  indicated to this USG document (which by the way, seems not to open anymore, for some reason):

                  Weapons of Mass Destruction: Trade Between North Korea and Pakistan...
                  “A Nuclear North Korea: Intelligence; US Says Pakistan Gave Technology to North ... China provided Pakistan with a. nuclear weapons design. For North Korea ...


                  Someone's going to gave to answer for the proliferation part of this, regardless of whether the thing worked as designed, or not.

                  As if things weren't complicated enough.  The Bushites have truly FUBARed this.  Just one more reason for regime change in Washington.  

                  Their Crowning Glory.

                  •  Several design teams - back in the mid-1980s (0+ / 0-)

                    the CIA detected NK manufacturing and testing explosive lenses needed to make the plutonium sphere in which the bomb's chain-reaction occurs.

                    At that point, the design would have been based on Chinese/Soviet plans.  After the breakup of the USSR and Soviet Bloc, NK reportedly imported free-lance Soviet and German technical experts.

                    By the mid-to-late 1990s, the AQ Khan network was busy peddling nuclear technologies, and NK purchased some of Khan's centrifuges to start production of enriched uranium to supplement their heavy water plutonium stocks which were under seal by the IAEA after the agreement with the Clinton Admin.  The Bushites pressured Pyongyang about this second source of fissible materials, and NK kicked out the inspectors and repossesse its plutonium stock, which is almost certainly the source for yesterday's test.

                    I could find little about whether NK also obtained significant assistance from Pakistani sources for warhead plans, but there has been a lot of assistance back and forth on missiles.  Pakistan may have traded workable plans for an enriched uranium-based bomb along with the centrifuges, but it is not believed that NK yet has a large enough stock of U-235 to begin production based on such designs.

                    It seems most likely, therefore, that the NK device is based on the old Chinese/Soviet uranium bomb plans and technologies.  As to what sort of recent assistance China may has provided, that would be sheer speculation.

          •  slow sparkler radiates (0+ / 0-)

            If all the material is not consumed it becomes radioactive trash.  Why are the readings low to non-existant on radiation so far?

            Do the right thing 'casue it feels better.

            by John Boy on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 07:08:41 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't know. Where are you getting your data? (0+ / 0-)

              It was an underground test.  There's usually some venting, but that varies depending upon how far down they set it off, the tunnel design, etc.  If the yield was really low, there might not be so much cratering and not much of a release would occur.

              The numbers being reported are all coming from seismic data at this point.

              The small amount of readable radiation at this point isn't surprising.

  •  It was just enough for Bush to use as an excuse (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gaspare, serrano, kraant

    to persecute NK and rile the world to allow him to prosecute his new world order. It is funny that Bush loudly condemms and threatens NK but has not even verified a nuclear explosion.

    Repug credo: If you can't Dazzle them with Brilliance Baffle them with Bullshit!

    by jmsjoin on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:02:47 AM PDT

  •  the two failures deserve each other (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    serrano, kraant

    this failure is a tiny window for US to halt the NK weaponization program before a catostrophic arms race explodes in the region.  We have time until they perfect the bomb and package it into a warhead.  However, it seems clear that the neocons want a nuclear boogeyman in NK.  I am highly suspicious of the Bush administration's motives.  The 6 party talks are a joke.  There should be three party talks China, US and NK.  This is being avoided on purpose, the 6 party talks are a ruse to a devious alterior motive.

  •  IT DOESN'T MATTER!!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onanyes, kraant

    The point is....this would NEVER have happened if the "Bush doctrines" (can't do that, Clinton did it {the 1994 agreed upon framework}; we don't negotiate with our enemies) hadn't been followed.

    I wouldn't believe Bush if his tongue became notarized (h/t to shanti2)

    by billlaurelMD on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:04:19 AM PDT

  •  "One Twisted Dynastic Son"--Love It!!! n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  I think you're wrong to a degree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I agree with what I think the spirit of this diary is, in that North Korea is not nearly as advanced as we are, and that they pose little threat to us, however, I disagree on calling the test a flop.  It was their first nuclear test ever, and it was a small one.  A possible alternative to your explanation is that they either were testing a small amount to see if it worked, or they were simply testing to get attention.  I seriously doubt they wanted to make a huge explosion, since it must be difficult for them to make nuclear weapons being as isolated as they are.

    •  I think it's actually harder to make small nukes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      subtropolis, kraant

      perhaps someone with real expertise can comment, but I've heard that the technical challenge of making a small nuke are actually tougher than making one in the first place.

      if this was a real atomic blast test, the yield of 1 kiliton would pretty much indicate that they have problems.

      still worrying though. a bomb of this sort should properly be thought of as a big dirty bomb.

  •  You don't know any of this. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rangemaster, kraant

    It may have gone just perfect.
    And it may have been much larger than 550 tons.
    And even if it was small, it may have been just what they wanted. This diary is speculation and nothing more. You don't know with any certainy if they have a warhead or not. Claiming that you do is just ridiculous.

    All that being said, the state which I consider most likely use nuclear weapons to kill a great number of people within the next couple of years is clearly the US.

    "When the Americans say that the plane was not in government service, we have to believe them." --Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg 11.15.05

    by LodinLepp on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:22:28 AM PDT

  •  Is it possible that his team of nuke (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    scientists blew stuff up and told Kim it was a legitimate nuclear test? If I were a scientist working for a regime that had limited rescources and my crazy leader was telling me I HAD to make a nuclear warhead in a certain amount of time, and said leader didnt really pay attention to what I was doing in general, I might cheat!

    •  If I (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was a crazy leader, battling a sex scandal, facing a potential loss of both Congress and unlimited powers, in a mutual dependency relationship with a cartoon-like adversary in a distant country where people and places have esoteric names, controling my subjects primarily with instruments like fear, pride, patriotism and religion, I might even consider a strategic, covert partnership with my odd-looking colleague, and request a little distraction, an explosion perhaps. Just something that will help my people take their mind off things. My "enemy" and I would both benefit.

      Anything is possible. We don't know.

      "When the Americans say that the plane was not in government service, we have to believe them." --Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg 11.15.05

      by LodinLepp on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:42:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That was my first reaction, too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Given the history and character of the two Dear Leaders, an symbiotic alliance is not unimaginable.

        But, I had to force myself to come up with a more plausible scenario.  That's all this is.

        Thanks for reminding me.

  •  What if this turns out to be a hoax.... (0+ / 0-)

    ...a hoax by North Korea's Dear Leader conducted to see how bad he could rattle the nerves of the US leadership?

    Let's say he set off a big conventional explosion, claimed it was a nuke, announced it and is waiting to see how long it takes for Western military experts to figure out it wasn't really a nuke.

    Sure would make the Bush Administration look stupid for just taking his word for it that it was a nuclear explosion.

    What do you think of that?

    •  Not likely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Nuclear explosions leave atmospheric evidence that's easy to detect downwind.  North Korea wouldn't demonstrate to the world that they actually don't have a nuclear weapon while claiming it did as it would weaken their hand considerably; it would be highly counterproductive to their interests and would then leave themselves vulnerable to attack now that their great deterrence and standing in the world was shown to be a hoax.

      We'll wait to hear it in the news, but you could place your bet with great assurance that the explosion was nuclear.  How large it was, or whether it was incomplete remains to be seen.

      "Life is forever menaced by chaos and must restore balance with every intake of breath"-- Jean Gebser

      by rangemaster on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:42:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the sanity (0+ / 0-)

    It occurred to me, too, that this could be some kind of disaster or accident that produced enough of a seismic signature that their Dear Leader decided to use as a way to get under the skin of our Dear Leader (or maybe Japan's new PM).

  •  I dunno (0+ / 0-)

    Without getting into details, I have had a need to know details of NK equipment in my “war gaming” job. A lot of the stuff is laughable and primitive.  So many of the things that NK has done in the past are just plan goofy.  My guess is test was a sham.

    Imagine Newt Gingrich in charge of a desperately poor country who’s claim to fame is that they once repulsed an invasion lead by the US.  That is a million “gooks” in "tennis shoes" snuck around the mountains and encircled our troops and beat us back.  And now we refuse to repeat that error.  What would Newt do?  Well, met Mr. Kim.

    PS I think “gook” is ok here because Gook is the name of a village in Korea, the actual origin of the term.  And for my Asian friends, I would not intentionally confuse the various tigers with China.  I get it.


    Do the right thing 'casue it feels better.

    by John Boy on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:42:09 AM PDT

  •  Wishful thinking and speculation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    subtropolis, LodinLepp

    Perhaps the reality of a nuclear North Korea, with the subsequent arms race in East Asia is too frightening?

    Perhaps it was an incomplete explosion, perhaps not.  In any event, we are at an historical turning point in world history.  Where the process of interaction between North Korea, South Korea, Japan and China now goes is unpredictable, but extremely dangerous.

    "Life is forever menaced by chaos and must restore balance with every intake of breath"-- Jean Gebser

    by rangemaster on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:50:01 AM PDT

    •  True (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And is this an indication that China fears a possible increase in refugees sometime in the near future?

      "China canceled leavefor its soldiers along the North Korean border and some units were conducting anti-chemical weapons drills, the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po reported in Hong Kong."

      "When the Americans say that the plane was not in government service, we have to believe them." --Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg 11.15.05

      by LodinLepp on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 06:56:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Remind me again (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Which Presidential candidate didn't rule out the use of tactical nukes in theatre on the campaign trail in 2000?

    Remind me again which country, that's killed about half a million people in Iraq since 1990, with sanctions and bombing; has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world?

    Remind me again which country has been tossing depleted uranium around battlefields since the early 90's?

    And remind me who is the only country to ever have actually deployed nuclear weapons in war?

    Johnny,'re dooming yourself. What...what happens when you run out of things to destroy?

    by Kid Miracleman on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 07:17:49 AM PDT

  •  your speculation doesnt consider the technical (0+ / 0-)

    aspects of seismic transmission, considering the monitorable yield of a chamber de-coupled nuclear explosion. Especially a small yield test.

    The seismic waves caused by an underground explosion vary according to several things, but specifically the size of the chamber, the depth of the chamber and the chamber material (saltmine, coalmine, granite etc.)

    a small yield explosion in a deep hole in a (mathmatically correct) large chamber could be misidentified as a dud.

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