It appears that the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea has tested a nuclear bomb. Apparently it was smaller than one would have expected, about one kiloton, but even that number is suspect: we don’t really know yet.

    The seismic waves were of magnitude 4.2, which scientists estimate would require the explosive equivalent of 1 kiloton of TNT. That would make it much less powerful than underground tests by India and Pakistan or the bombs that the United States dropped on Japan in World War II. . . .

    They also dismissed as remote the possibility that North Korea intended the explosion to be small.

    “You’d have to be a lot more advanced to get a small yield on purpose than to get a small yield by accident,” said Anthony Fainberg, a physicist who has done nuclear safeguard work for Brookhaven National Laboratory. “There’s no reason to believe they were that brilliant.”

Thus there is the suspicion that the test was a partial fizzle — and some have even speculated it was the detonation of 1,000 tons of conventional high explosive, though it’s improbable that the Dear Leader’s minions could have excavated a shaft that large and deep without having been observed by spy satellites. A partial fizzle would occur if the critical mass was not properly achieved, and part of the fissile material was blown away before it could contribute to the chain reaction.

    First was the test; now comes the talk
    Diplomats differed over how to punish N. Korea. Scientists tried to assess the underground blast.

    By Nick Wadhams, Associated Press

    UNITED NATIONS – First, China agreed that North Korea must be punished over its nuclear test, though not as swiftly and severely as President Bush wants. Then there were suggestions that the test was not all it was meant to be, anyway.

    A day after setting the world on edge, the North Korean nuclear crisis settled into diplomatic debate yesterday. The U.N. Security Council worked to find agreement on economic sanctions, and nuclear scientists tried to determine whether North Korea’s test was a partial failure. . . .

    At the United Nations yesterday, China agreed that its impoverished communist neighbor and ally must face “punitive actions” – something of a breakthrough itself – but it was unclear just how much punishment Beijing would allow.

    “I think you cannot ask by this resolution to kill a country,” said Wang Guangya, China’s U.N. ambassador. He said that the Security Council must impose “punitive actions” but that they must “be appropriate.”

Just what can you do to a country that is so poor it can’t feed itself?

    Amid the diplomacy, North Korea again demanded one-on-one talks with the United States, and a North Korean official reportedly threatened to launch a nuclear-tipped missile if Washington failed to help resolve the standoff. The United States dismissed the demand, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured the North there would be no U.S. attack.

A nuclear armed missile isn’t exactly a small threat, but coming from the Dear Leader, it is not a credible one. North Korea’s recent missile tests have been successful only in the short range area; their attempts to test a longer range missile ended in failure. Add to that the probability that their nuclear test was a partial fizzle, and the fact that to be mounted (successfully) on a missile, a nuclear bomb must be tightly engineered and configured to fit on the missile, and sturdy and reliable enough to survive launch and detonate at the right time while falling toward its target at very high speeds.

As much as paranoia wants to feed the image, there is no remote possibility that a nuclear-armed missile from the PDRK could fall on San Francisco any time in the next decade.

    The Bush administration asked the U.N. Security Council to impose a partial trade embargo on the North, including strict limits on the country’s profitable weapons exports and a freeze on related financial assets. All imports also would be inspected to filter out materials that could be made into nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

    U.S. Ambassador John Bolton sounded upbeat after talks at the Security Council, but he said differences remained in advance of today’s meeting. “Look, we don’t have complete agreement on this yet – that’s hardly a news flash – but we’re making progress, and we’re I think at a point we can try and narrow some of the differences we do have,” Bolton said.

    China, which reacted to Monday’s blast with a strong condemnation but considers North Korea a useful buffer against U.S. forces stationed in South Korea, said it envisioned a limited package of sanctions weaker than what the United States and especially Japan were demanding. China and Russia both object to proposals to block shipments and block financial transactions.

If Russia and China object to those provisions, what’s left? If you can’t get an agreement to block the PDRK’s only real profitable exports and you aren’t going to freeze their meager financial assets, what remains that can be used punitively against North Korea that will have any effect at all?

And now the Dear Leader and his minions are threatening to use force:

    Further pressure will be countered with physical retaliation, the North’s Foreign Ministry warned in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

    “If the U.S. keeps pestering us and increases pressure, we will regard it as a declaration of war and will take a series of physical corresponding measures,” the statement, said without specifying what those measures could be. . . .

    North Korea’s No. 2 leader Kim Yong Nam threatened in an interview with a Japanese news agency that there would also be more nuclear tests if Washington continued what he called its “hostile attitude.”

    Kim, second to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, told Kyodo News agency that further nuclear testing would hinge on U.S. policy toward his communist government.

Is further nuclear testing a threat? It takes about 4 kilograms of plutonium to build an atomic bomb. The PDRK has collected the plutonium it has from spent fuel rods at its nuclear reactor, and produces about nine grams per day of harvestable plutonium; that means it would take more than a year top produce sufficient fissile material to make just one bomb. While estimates of the PDRK’s stockpile of nuclear materials vary widely (anywhere from sufficient mass for from four to thirteen bombs), every test they conduct is a bomb that cannot be built for military use.

So, please, test away! Use up that stockpile of fissile material blowing holes in the ground. We want to see it, we want you to fire away.

Here is the text of the PDRK’s formal announcement:

The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation.

It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation.

The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability.

“It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.

When “all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation?” That’ll be quite some news to a population trying to live on a very poor diet, where the diseases of malnutrition are running rampant. One suspects that the adjective “prosperous” doesn’t quite apply.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) chose The Captain’s Quarters to guest-blog on the subject (hat tip to Patterico):

    Time for Decisive Action on North Korea

    Korea doubts the world’s resolve. It is testing South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the United States. They launched seven missiles in July, and were criticized by the Security Council, but suffered no serious sanction. We have talked and talked about punishing their bad behavior. They don’t believe we have the resolve to do it. We must prove them wrong.

    I am encouraged by the Security Council’s swift and strong condemnation of the act on Monday, but the permanent members must now follow up our words with action. We must impose Chapter 7 sanctions with teeth, as President Bush has proposed.

    China has staked its prestige as an emerging great power on its ability to reason with North Korea, keep them engaged with the six party negotiations, and make progress toward a diplomatic resolution of this crisis. North Korea has now challenged them as directly as they challenge South Korea, Japan, Russia and the U.S. It is not in China’s interest or our interest to have a nuclear arms race in Asia, but that is where we’re headed. If China intends to be a force for stability in Asia, then it must do more than rebuke North Korea. It must show Pyongyang that it cannot sustain itself as a viable state with aggressive actions and in isolation from the entire world.

    They have missiles, and now they claim to have tested a nuclear device. Eventually they will have the technology to put warheads on missiles. That is a grave threat to South Korea, Japan and the United States that we cannot under any circumstances accept. North Korea also has a record of transferring weapons technology to other rogue nations, such as Iran and Syria.

    The President is right to call on the Council to impose a military arms embargo, financial and trade sanctions, and, most importantly, the right to interdict and inspect all cargo in and out of North Korea. I hope the Council quickly adopts these sanctions, and that all members enforce them.

    The worst thing we could do is accede to North Korea’s demand for bilateral talks. When has rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior ever gotten us anything more than worse behavior?

    I would remind Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush Administration policies that the framework agreement her husband’s administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.

    Prior to the agreement, every single time the Clinton Administration warned the Koreans not to do something — not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor — they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton Administration with further talks. We had a carrots and no sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didn’t work, we offered another.

    This isn’t just about North Korea. Iran is watching this test of the Council’s will, and our decisions will surely influence their response to demands that they cease their nuclear program. Now, we must, at long last, stop reinforcing failure with failure.

But, what has changed? North Korea claimed to have the fissile material a while ago (and we knew they had it years before that) — and nothing was done. They claimed that they had the know-how to build atomic bombs — and nothing was done. They tested several missiles earlier this year, and we wrung our hands about it — but nothing was done. The only change that I can see is that they backed up their statements, provided some proof of their claims, and some rather lame proof it turned out to be. Why get upset now?

The Dear Leader and the Dense Secretary

Our friends on the left will claim that the nuclear test by the PDRK indicates the failure of the policies of President Bush. However, we had agreements with North Korea produced by the Clinton Administration — and the North Koreans routinely violated them. The picture above, of President Kim and Secretary of State Madeline Albright shows them happily toasting some agreement: Secretary Albright happy because her department got an agreement, and President Kim happy because he knew he had snookered the United States once again.

Unfortunately, the Democrats in our country don’t understand that. The editors of The Philadelphia Inquirer came up with the predictable drumbeat, that the United States must engage in bilateral talks with North Korea, because that’s what our Democratic friends do; the thought that making agreements with nations that break them are somewhat less than wise ideas. Senator McCain noted that:

    the framework agreement (the Clinton) administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.

President Bush has come up with a genuinely new thing in diplomacy: he calls things as they are, and doesn’t waste time pursuing agreements with nations which will not keep them. This is an utter shock to the diplomatic corps, and to those who believe that good feelings and open negotiations can solve anything. That some nations, that some governments, that some cultures simply do not accept Western notions concerning the keeping of treaties is a concept they cannot accept, even though the evidence is clearly before their eyes.

What is it, I wonder, that our friends on the left believe we can promise the PDRK that will get them to reverse their policies. They already have a stockpile of weapons-grade fissile material, and have had since the middle of the Clinton Administration. We have provided food aid to them already, we have provided technical assistance to them already, and look what they did with it. What more can we give a nation that brutalizes and oppresses and impoverishes its own people to make them behave as we would like?

The answer is: nothing. There is nothing we can give the North Koreans that would end the bad behavior of its government, because that government and culture is based on cruelty and communism and confrontation. Without those things, the government could not stand.

The Communist government was on its way to building atomic weapons since the early stages of the Clinton Administration. The many attempts of President Clinton to buy them off succeeded in giving the Communists things that they wanted, without the necessity of giving up those things they had said they would, because they did not have, and never had, any intentions of keeping their agreements.

And why should they? As Senator McCain asked rhetorically:

    When has rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior ever gotten us anything more than worse behavior?

Cross posted on Red State.


  1. As much as paranoia wants to feed the image, there is no remote possibility that a nuclear-armed missile from the PDRK could fall on San Francisco any time in the next decade.

    Maybe we’ll get lucky, and it will hit Berkeley instead …

  2. My daughter asked why do they need a 1,000,000 man army, a nuke bomb, and no food for the masses? I just said Kim a Commie and they only care about themselves and their toy army.

  3. She asked why can’t the masses revolt. I told her they’re disarmed and hungry. Can’t do much revolting with that revolting situation. She voted for Kerry, sorry, but she does follow the news and tries to make sense of it. I try to answer with both sides of the discussion so she can make up her own mind.

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