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News about North Korean nukes

American spy satellites have found what looks like an advanced nuclear testing range in North Korea, the Telegraph reports.

American intelligence officials now believe that North Korea is developing the technology to make nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop the country’s growing arsenal of missiles, potentially putting Tokyo and American troops based in Japan at risk, according to officials who have received the intelligence reports.

An intelligence assessment, which has been shared with Japan, South Korea and other East Asian nations, identifies a previously unknown range of the type needed to produce a nuclear missile warhead according to the New York Times. The new testing capability does not mean North Korea can actually build a small weapon, but it suggests that the North Koreans are moving to combine their two most advanced weapons projects: nuclear technology and missile technology.

As Telegraph points out such uncertainty leads to a further cause for alarm: the outside world’s reliance on remote sensors and satellite images to track what is going on inside the paranoid totalitarian state.

North Korea, unlike Iraq, has made no secret of its plan to develop nuclear weapons. Now, administration officials say they fear that the North is on the verge of producing five or six new weapons, some of which might be miniaturized.

“This would give them the range they never had before, and the chance to spread their threat far beyond South Korea,” said a senior Asian official, noting that about 60,000 American troops are based in Japan.

Without question, though, North Korea’s abilities greatly outstrip anything Iraq had in the last decade, and the North’s program is probably several years ahead of Iran’s.

14 comments to News about North Korean nukes

  • Are you suggesting military action in North Korea?

  • As the regime in North Korea is essentially deranged, it might make that decision on its own and launch a pre-emptive strike. It would be… regrettable… if NK’s opening move was a series of tactical nuclear strikes on South Korea and Japan, particularly if those ‘tactical’ strikes hit Toyko and Seoul. Given that the people with their figures on North Korea’s putative nuclear button are quite literally insane, anything is possible.

    I am just theorising of course and hopefully I am being far too pessimistic.

  • I am curious what people who felt Bush and Blair exaggerated the weapons threat from Iraq will say to this, if this is clearly agreed to be more serious?

    Will they back a strike on North Korea, or will they use different objections to there being no genuine threat?

  • G Cooper

    mark writes:

    “Will they back a strike on North Korea, or will they use different objections to there being no genuine threat?”

    First, they will deny the threat, then they will fabricate some other risible set of excuses.

    The hypocrisy at work never fails to astound me. Last night’s Newsnight (I think it was Newsnight, after a while one bunch of liberal whining sounds much like another) devoted half the show (and ‘show’ is what it was) to castigating the Americans for having invaded Iraq, then spent the other half castigating them for not having gone into Africa.

    And they claim it is Americans who have no appreciation of irony?

  • veryretired

    NK is one of the bizarre little remnants of the Soviet era that has managed to survive by devouring its own young, literally and figuratively according to some recent stories. It is run by a small group of holdovers from the “Great Leader’s” regime, who will do anything to hold onto power, and, conversely, will NOT do anything which they believe might actually prompt a knockout response from the US.

    It operates now on the edges of three formidable powers, the US and China as potential military threats, and Japan as an economic benefactor if it can be blackmailed adroitly enough. (Pardon me if I leave SK out of the picture, it is not an independent actor, and its recent burst of “hey, look, US, we don’t need you any more” is extra laughable now)

    Like Syria, the leader is a neurotic twerp who inherited the country, and the dilemna for both is how to play their few cards for the best effect. Syria is being semi-cooperative (odd the reaction several very dangerous US divisions next door will produce), while NK is using the same strategy of huff and puff it has used for decades to first antagonize and then seem more conciliatory. The game only works if we play, as Clinton did, and Bush has so far not.

    The danger in the situation can be alleviated for the US by simply moving its assets out of range, some of which is already happening, and telling the neighboring countries whose fate is truly hanging that it is time for them to pick up the weight. SK has been freeloading for decades, and its lunatic Marxist student groups agitating about our troops, so let them take care of the NK comprades. It is also time for China and Japan to pull their own weight in the area in diplomatic terms, instead of always sitting back and trying to see what trouble the US can handle for them, and then criticizing whatever happens.

    It would not be at all surprizing to find out the Dear Leader suffered a heart attack or stroke or whatever if the more pragmatic people around him decided it was time to move on. It’s worked before.

  • David Mercer

    Don’t forget that Japan has more weapons grade re-processed plutonium than just about anyone out there!

    Why have we (US) let/encouraged Japan to reprocess spent reactor fuel into plutonium? I think it’s:

    1) Guilt about having nuked them

    2) So they can go nuclear when/if we leave them to their own devices/defense.

    Also note that Japanese politicians have sent up some tentative trial balloons in the press about going nuclear since the beginning of the year.

    Their military is quite capable and large, merely lacking force projection elements (it’s for defense only :-)

  • I think I might favour military action against North Korea, if it was just North Korea a long way from anywhere else. The trouble is that it is not. Firstly, military action in that area would really upset the Chinese, and I really don’t know what the consequences of that would be. Secondly, there is a major western city (Seoul) just few tens of miles from the demilitarised zone. Disregarding the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons, there is a fair chance that the North Koreans could reduce a substantial portion of this city to rubble merely using conventional artillery, something they have lots of sitting on the border and aimed in that direction. While some of the stupidest anti-American idiots in the world are South Korean, the country is one of the greatest success stories of the last fifty years (in terms of turning an extremely poor place into a rich democracy) and it would be a catastrophe for the country to take this sort of damage.

    While the thought of the Kim dynasty getting the ability to destroy Tokyo (and various American bases as well) terrifies me, the fact is that the North Koreans have the ability to inflict very major damage on the west even without nuclear weapons. And that, fundamentally is why the rules are different to those that applied to Iraq.

  • Scott Cattanach

    I am curious what people who felt Bush and Blair exaggerated the weapons threat from Iraq will say to this, if this is clearly agreed to be more serious?

    Will they back a strike on North Korea, or will they use different objections to there being no genuine threat?

    Mark, I’m not sure I follow the logic. You seem to be saying the fact that Bush and Blair lied (“they can hit us with WMDs in 45 minutes”) makes their opponents look bad.

  • Kodiak

    MARK

    “I am curious what people who felt Bush and Blair exaggerated the weapons threat from Iraq will say to this, if this is clearly agreed to be more serious? Will they back a strike on North Korea, or will they use different objections to there being no genuine threat?”

    The so-called people would probably retort that the matter should be discussed where it has to be: in New York (UN). As for the output, it’s all the hands of the members of the Security Council.

    ————————————————————

    VERYRETIRED

    Except for the Manichean bit of your argument about SK students needing US for security & refusing US for other nuisance (why antagonising things that are just human feelings that appear to be a paradox just to you), I share your point of view (God! I’ve said it…).

    I don’t know if China is sitting back out of weakness or deliberate hidden motives…

    ————————————————————

    MICHAEL

    You’re right: a preventive, UN-unsupported, illegal, Iraq-type military action against NK, that is in the outskirts of China would not just be a scandal. it would be suicidal too.

    ————————————————————
    NK is not just a threat to Asia-Pacific.

    It’s also a very much globalised actor in weapon dealing & in terrorism fuelling.

    That should leave a door ajar to advance serious talks with China, instead of remaking another sad Iraqi circus…

    Kodiak

  • Howard

    Personnaly i think we want China and Japan to handle as much of this as possible

    HG

  • T. Hartin

    It seems to me the answer is fairly straightforward – give nukes to SoKo and Japan.

    Right now, SoKo and Japan are nuclear-weapon-free zones. This was done in large part to placate the ChiComs and to some extent the NoKos. If the NoKos are hellbent on getting their own nukes, it seems to me that we should station nukes in SoKo and Japan. We (the US) have lots; I’m sure we could spare a few.

    This is all in the name of levelling the playing field, of course, and maintaining regional stability by maintaining a parity of armaments. If the NoKos give up their nukes and nuke program and let us verify it, we pull all nukes out of the region.

    A nuclear SoKo eliminates the only credible non-nuclear military threat the NoKos have – those big artillery parks targeting Seoul. Right now, those parks are too hardened to take out with anything other than nukes if they start barraging Seoul. A handful of tactical nukes will neutralize that threat, though.

    Nuclear SoKo and Japan also force China to bring its poodle NoKo back into line. If China takes a hard line on NoKo nukes, they don’t happen. China very much does not want nukes in Japan or SoKo, so this encourages China to stop trying to play the NoKo card to harass US interests in the area.

  • David Mercer

    It is estimated that Japan could have a functioning nuclear arsenal in 6-18 months, and that’s assuming that they haven’t gotten started behind closed doors already.

    They have literally TONS of plutonium in a form that is easy to build weapons with.

  • Kodiak

    What about a chimeric China-Koreas-Japan alliance against the US in reply to August 6 & 9, 1945?

    Kodiak.

  • Ghaleon

    ? We liberated China and Korea those days…

    I think China is understanding that NK isn’t really of any use to them… China, who is now very friendly with western capitalism, need us a lot more than NK. Anyway, I don’t think China is very interested in having a nuclear armed NK near him…

    The sad truth is that we should have attacked NK before…