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What Does A NoKo Nuclear Test Mean?

Most likely this is bluster:

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea triggered global alarm on Tuesday by saying it will conduct a nuclear test, a key step in the manufacture of atomic bombs that it views as a deterrent against any U.S. attack. But the North also said it was committed to nuclear disarmament, suggesting a willingness to negotiate.

There have been several false alarms about North Korean nuclear tests over the past two years, and at the moment there are none of the telltale signs that a test is imminent. U.S. satellites can very easily spot the test preparations necessary for a test, such as the excavation and filling of a test tunnel, with cables trailing out. Nuclear testing, even underground nuclear testing, is a very tricky situation for a country as small as North Korea. GlobalSecurity.org quotes analyst Satoshi Morimoto:

" ... carrying out nuclear tests inside North Korea would be an extremely sticky action. That is because this kind of nuclear testing could only be carried out underground. There is absolutely no way they could do in the air or above ground. Even with underground nuclear testing, you normally need a fifty to sixty kilometer square of desert for a nuclear test. In the U.S., this would be something like the Nevada desert. Unless you have the kind they have in India or Pakistan, you cannot do it. The reason for this is that the underground water system gets damaged. North Korea has a very abundant flow of underground water, and if you carry out an underground nuclear test in this kind of place, radioactive materials would get into the water supply for the whole of the Korean peninsula, and also flow out into the Sea of Japan. As a consequence, if there were any underground nuclear testing in the Korean peninsula, it would not be just the ecological system, but also the topography of the land that would be damaged. So, will they indeed carry out tests? I think they might somehow manage to borrow the Pakistani desert, or else carry out tests in another country.

Moreover, North Korea only has one shot at this: once they have actually tested a weapon, they have lost whatever diplomatic leverage the threat of a test poses, and it will shift the entire paradigm of negotiations into completely new and unpredictable ways.

North Korea risks alienating their all-important neighbor China, and could push Beijing even further towards strong relations with the West. Diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. have warmed of late, and China seems to be realizing that taking a harder line with Iran is earning them big points on the international stage. Taking a more proactive stance is giving them a certain respect they had not enjoyed before. A North Korean nuclear test right now would be quite stupid, especially considering the already shaky nature of the regime there, and the inevitable sanctions that would follow a test. Read this outstanding article if you want to more fully understand the absolutely dire straits Kim Jong-Il's regime faces right now.

The proper way for the North Koreans to game this is to threaten a test, win concessions by then pledging not to test, go on to further pledge to unbuild its nuclear weapons program and win more goodies, and then allow limited inspections. Then, kick out the inspectors, begin plutonium production again, and threaten another test. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 3 October 2006 07:42 PM


I don't understand why it was so important to invent the atomic bomb? For what? Again for eternal wars? I'm tired of all this instability in the world and moreover the innocent people's sufferings!!! Nowadays everybody is little by little driving mad because of the constant thoughts about accidents, wars, deaths, happening here and there!!! It’s awful!!! Every time I fly somewhere, I still tremble with fear, because I don’t know what it’s happening next minute!!! Especially recently I’ve suffered a great deal, flying to the Emirates!!! Something happened with the plane and a crazy man cried out that it’s a bomb!!! I even couldn’t come to myself even in the Dubai hotel we stayed in. Who is responsible for all this terror happening nowadays in the world???

Posted by: massyandra at October 4, 2006 01:59 AM

Well, I was going to ask who could be stupid enough to think Mr. Kim gives a shit about aquifers when I read the comment above.

massyandra, you could level the same complaint about the evil genius who discovered fire. Life was so much less worrisome before there were arsonists.

As to who is responsible, probably the same guy; probably Karl Rove's ancestor.

Posted by: mrsizer at October 5, 2006 10:26 PM

I think that the concerned world should always press on for a nuclear bomb free world. I mean we could all get along without the threat of this disaster. However the means to preventing the North Koreans from using or threatening the use is very difficult to imagine. Something must be done however and one would wish for a peaceful resolution to this crisis. If there is some way to make a deal with those in power and win them over to being peaceful. This would be the most favorable way. We all live to see a day when we have the freedom to view the world as a peaceful one. Then we can concern ourselves with the demanding issues of our personal lives and learn to love our neighbours.

Posted by: Greg at October 10, 2006 11:07 AM