Monthly Archives: October 2006

Garwin & Von Hippel on NORK Nuke Test

ACA just posted “an analysis”: from Richard L. Garwin and Frank N. von Hippel on the DPRK nuclear test.

It contains some evidence that I don’t think has been made public before. Here’s an example:

bq. …it is not surprising that a range of yields has been reported. One authoritative estimate from Terry Wallace, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, based on an unclassified analysis of open data, estimates a yield between 0.5 and 2 kilotons, with 90 percent confidence that the yield is less than 1 kiloton.[7] A second authority, Lynn R. Sykes of Columbia University estimates a yield of 0.4 kilotons, with 68 percent confidence that the yield is between 0.2 and 0.7 kilotons and a 95 percent probability that the yield is less than 1 kiloton.[8]

I also liked this observation:

bq. One notable byproduct of the test is that it has demonstrated that university and other independent seismic detection systems, as well as those of governments and the International Monitoring System of the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization very effectively detect underground explosions in the sub-kiloton range.

But read the whole thing…I can’ t do it justice. And I need time to help Jeffrey pick out a third vacation home, now that our “fear-mongering has pushed revenues through the roof”:

_Jeffrey Adds_: “Perhaps North Korea’s weapon designers tried to go directly to a weapon in the 500-1000 kilogram class that could reach South Korea on a Scud missile…” “Sounds familiar, eh?”:

Shorter Bill Arkin

Arkin takes on a massive straw-figure in “a post”: which says something about North Korea and nuclear weapons.

Allow me to paraphrase:

bq. Unnamed “Ambulance Chasers of the Apocalypse” point to the dangers of a nuclear-armed North Korea – as well as nuclear proliferation in general – in order to get rich. Not because nuclear weapons can kill people and blow up a lot of shit.

Now I need to tell the servants to wax my Ferrari…

Department of Silly

I was re-reading some _ACT_ pieces last night and came across “a gem”: from SecState Rice this past July on US North Korea policy.

Here’s the quote in full:

bq. I just want to say to China that the responsibility that has been shown here — and I think the President will say this to President Hu later — really shows that the efforts that we’ve been making over the last couple of years to have six-party talks — not U.S.-North Korea talks, where it was the United States and North Korea — but six-party talks, in which all of North Korea’s neighbors have been working toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, *that that’s really paying off,* because we really now have a coalition…That’s why I think ultimately North Korea will have no choice but to return to the talks and pursue denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

[Insert witty comment here…and read about Jane below.]

DPRK Test: What About that Radionuclide Data?

“NHK”: and “Yonhap”: have both reported on what Japan and South Korea have found in the atmosphere after the DPRK’s Monday test: bagel.

According to NHK:

Japan’s 47 prefectures say no radioactive substances have been detected at any measuring points in a survey conducted one day after North Korea’s claimed nuclear test.

The prefectures took samples of dust and rain from the air on Tuesday as part of an emergency government monitoring program.

They say the survey shows no trace of radioactive substances peculiar to a nuclear explosion, and that air radiation levels are normal.

Other government checks, including an air survey of radioactive substances from a Self-Defense Forces’ training plane, have also shown no unusual data.

Says Yonhap:

No signs of unusual radiation levels have been detected in South Korea after North Korea said it successfully detonated a nuclear device, the government said Thursday.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said none of the government’s 38 manned and unmanned monitoring centers had picked up any spikes in natural radiation from Monday noon to Thursday morning. The usual levels of radiation in South Korea are 10-20 Micro-Roentgen (mR).

North Korea and Nuclear Forensics

I was at an event this morning where Michael Swaine raised the question of identifying North Korean uranium in the event that it were used in an attack by another state or terrorist organization.

This subject has come up a fair amount lately, it seems. Yesterday, both “David Ignatius”: and “William Perry”: mentioned it in the _WP_. Perry wrote:

… the greatest danger to the United States from this program is not that North Korea would be willing to commit suicide by firing a missile at the United States, even if it did develop one of sufficient range. Rather, it is the possibility that the North Koreans will sell one of the bombs or some of their plutonium to a terrorist group…If a warning is to have a chance of influencing North Korea’s behavior it has to be much more specific. It would have to promise retaliation against North Korea if a terrorist detonated a nuclear bomb in one of our cities. It must be backed by a meaningful forensics program that can identify the source of a nuclear bomb.

Personally, I am less worried that North Korea actually will transfer a nuclear weapon or fissile material, though I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.

Anyway, I thought I’d take this opportunity to flog a “new _ACT_ article”: from William Dunlop and Harold Smith called “Who Did It? Using International Forensics to Detect and Deter Nuclear Terrorism.”

The piece includes a useful “sidebar”: about nuclear forensics. Here are excerpts:

In the event of a nuclear explosion, radiochemists would seek to obtain minute quantities of debris from the nuclear device near ground zero and/or in the atmosphere. They would first separate the atoms into groups of chemically similar elements and then measure the radioactivity of each group. To do so, scientists often employ gamma-ray spectroscopy to measure the time of emission and the energy of each detectable gamma ray, electromagnetic radiation produced by radioactive decay.

The energy of the detected gamma ray is unique to each isotope of a specific element, thereby indicating its presence in the debris. Furthermore, the rate at which that isotope emits its signature gamma ray decays in time according to its unique half-life, thereby providing a second identifier of the isotope. By knowing the chemistry of elements that have been separated, the energy of the gamma rays of any radioactive atoms in that chemical group, and the rate at which the emission of the gamma rays at each particular energy level decays over time, scientists can obtain an accurate measurement of many of the isotopes of the chemical elements in the debris. Because there is always experimental uncertainty, particularly with small samples, all three processes (separation, energy measurement, and time dependence) may be used.

According to the authors “[t]hree types of atoms are of particular interest in a forensic analysis:”

* Atoms of fissile material that did not undergo fission. Examining them allows scientists to identify the material used to make the device and, when compared to the number of fission fragments, to measure the efficiency or sophistication of the weapon.

* New atoms created by fission and by other nuclear reactions within the fissile material. When scientists compare these, they can obtain considerable insight into the nuclear processes that were involved during the actual explosion.

* Atoms of material near the fissioning core that were subjected to an intense bombardment of neutrons during the explosion and became radioactive as a consequence. These atoms provide insight into the components of the weapon and the energy of the neutrons that activated the components.

Back to work, nerds. My break is over too…

Powell on DPRK Test

Just for fun…back in the day, Powell described the likely US response to a North Korean nuclear test in a “2003 interview”: with _Business Week_ :

Q: And if the North Koreans test nuclear arms?

A: If they test we’ll take note of their test. The only reason they are testing is to scare the international community. The President has already accepted the possibility that they might test. And we will say *”Gee, that was interesting.”*

The 50-year history of dealing with this regime is that they are marvelous in terms of threats, in terms of rhetoric and actions. Well, they might take an action, but this time they would be sticking their finger not just in the eye of the United States, but I think Kim Jong Il will have to think twice about whether he would do such a thing in light of Chinese involvement.

Interesting, indeed…

A Second Test?


Japan’s MFA is apparently saying that North Korea may have conducted a second test, “according to AP.”:;_ylt=AqNpJvlKrhHLpZFjc_in.Y6CscEA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

South Korea seems to say otherwise, though:

bq. …a South Korean official said seismic monitors did not detect any tremors that could indicate possible second North Korea nuclear test.

Japan’s NHK TV is reporting the same thing, “according to Reuters.”:;_ylt=AqCji4lInHJivU1PBg8FXU2CscEA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

I checked “NHK’s website”: and they do have a headline to that effect running across the top. Reuters also said that a South Korean official observed that no reports of tremors have surfaced.

I “wrote”: yesterday that the South Koreans were monitoring a North Korean site for a possible second test.

*Update:* Apparently not, “AP now reports”:;_ylt=AmrrJxfavDBRrv3SQdDSs6_uOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA3b3JuZGZhBHNlYwM3MjE. May have been an earthquake in Japan.

More Norky Goodness

For those of you taking a break from your glue binge, some additional items:

*1.* Here’s “the text”: of North Korea’s statement on the nuclear tests:

The field of scientific research in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, Juche 95 [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 from 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 [Korean People’s Army] 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.

*2.* AFP has “the elements”: of a US-sponsored draft sanctions resolution:

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the inspections were part of 13 elements for a draft resolution circulated by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton earlier Monday to punish Pyongyang for its first-ever nuclear weapons test.

US media have quoted intelligence officials saying one option being considered is to have US and allied naval forces intercept and search all North Korean bound shipping for weapons-related material.

The diplomat said the tentative draft “would authorize international inspection of cargo to and from North Korea to limit proliferation” and “prohibit trade in all materials with direct or dual use application for weapons of mass destruction (WMD).”

Other elements would also call for suspending “all activities related to (North Korea’s) ballistic missile programs”, urge “member states to take steps to ensure their territory is not used to facilitate WMD-related activities” and bar “financial transactions that support missile activities.”


The US ideas would have the council “prohibit trade in all military goods and services” as well as “trade in luxury goods”, “freeze assets and transactions associated with WMD” and take steps “to prevent abuse of financial system”, an apparent reference to alleged counterfeiting activities by the North, according to the diplomat.

The tentative draft would also condemn Monday’s test and reinforce missile-related sanctions passed by the Security Council last July after Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles in Japan’s direction, including a long-range Taepodong-2 believed to be capable of striking US soil.

The US suggestions, to be taken up by council experts later Monday, call for a review of North Korea’s “response” and “the need for additional action in 30 days

*3.* In a “previous post,”: I alluded to the fact that, if the Norks wanted to keep ascending the escalation ladder, they would be hard-pressed to come up with something else to top a nuclear test. I can’t say that I thought about what they’d do if the test failed, but it seems like they may just go back to the drawing board. They will also likely “maintain their calls”: for a diplomatic solution via the six-party talks and/or bilateral negotiations with the US.

(I think I also said that the chance of a test was “fairly low.” Damn it.)

Anyway, North Korea’s previous missile tests may suggest a sort of precedent for this. Recall that the first test of the TD-1 failed (because the third stage didn’t separate), but North Korea didn’t test another longer-range missile until this past July. After the first test, in fact, North Korea adopted its unilateral missile flight-testing moratorium.

In any case, the South Korean NIS seems to think that North Korea may have another one ready to go, the “AP reports”:;_ylt=AtGnvv4D_DNi74N_uCmfn4iCscEA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl:

The chief of South Korea’s intelligence agency said Monday that North Korea could possibly conduct additional nuclear tests, a lawmaker briefed by him said.

Kim Seung-kyu, head of the National Intelligence Service, made the comment at a meeting of the parliamentary intelligence committee, saying his agency detected the movement of about 15 people at a suspected underground test site at Punggye-ri, in northeastern North Korea, according to the lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information’s sensitive nature.

“Kim didn’t say the movement at Punggye-ri indicates North Korea is planning more tests. But still, he said there is a high possibility of North Korea conducting additional tests, as India and Pakistan did,” the lawmaker told The Associated Press.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Yoo Sun-ho of the ruling Uri Party, also confirmed that the spy chief said his agency detected “abnormal signs” at Punggye-ri, but said he doesn’t believe the intelligence report was meaningful. He didn’t elaborate.

AP, however, also has “this account”:;_ylt=Aki6h1MUSY46m4cEkbhn.LSCscEA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl of North Korea’s UN Ambassador being asked about the chance of another test:

bq. Pak Gil Yon told reporters he was proud of the North Koreans who conducted the test, and said the Security Council ought to be, too. Asked if the North planned any more tests, Pak said: “That will be enough. You don’t think so?”

*4.* One wonders if the North Koreans would have conducted this test if their July TD-2 launch attempt had succeeded. It could well be that the failure generated additional pressure from the relevant hardliners to test. Who knows?

*5.* The Bush administration policy has failed, in case anyone was wondering. I doubt that there’s ever been a case where there was a better chance that we could have done something to prevent a nuclear test but didn’t. I imagine this will somehow be blamed on the Clinton administration. Not that the Norks were justified in what they did.

*6.* Remember what “Ice-T said”:

bq. we’re really in a position where we could all die. Vietnam wasn’t it, but right now, with North Korea and all these motherf*ckers, this is real shit.


Yonhap “has more details”: on the site that ROK intel is monitoring:

South Korea’s intelligence authorities were closely monitoring another North Korean site in the country’s northeast on Monday evening as they spotted suspicious movement there that could possibly be part of preparations for another nuclear test.

The authorities were watching Punggye-ri in North Hamgyeong Province as they spotted up to 40 personnel and vehicles beginning to move around the area in the afternoon, Kim Seung-kyu, South Korea’s chief intelligence official, was quoted as saying in a parliamentary subcommittee meeting.

“We are closely watching whether Pyongyang intends to conduct another nuclear test,” he said.


The UN has the “full text,”: also replicated below.

“The Security Council expresses its deep concern over the statement of 3 October 2006 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in which it stated that the DPRK would conduct a nuclear test in the future.

“The Security Council reaffirms that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery constitute a threat to international peace and security. The Security Council deplores the DPRK’s announcement of withdrawal from the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the Treaty) and its stated pursuit of nuclear weapons, in spite of its Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards obligations. The Security Council deems that, should the DPRK carry out its threat of a nuclear weapon test, it would jeopardize peace, stability and security in the region and beyond.

“The Security Council underlines that such a test would bring universal condemnation by the international community and would not help the DPRK to address the stated concerns, particularly with regard to strengthening its security. The Security Council urges the DPRK not to undertake such a test and to refrain from any action that might aggravate tension, to work on the resolution of non-proliferation concerns and to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through political and diplomatic efforts. The Security Council reiterates the need for the DPRK to comply fully with all the provisions of Security Council resolution 1695 (2006).

“The Security Council supports the six-party talks and calls for their early resumption, with a view to achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner and to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in North-East Asia.

“The Security Council urges the DPRK to return immediately to the six-party talks without precondition, and to work towards the expeditious implementation of the 19 September 2005 joint statement and, in particular, to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes.

“The Security Council will be monitoring this situation closely. The Security Council stresses that a nuclear test, if carried out by the DPRK, would represent a clear threat to international peace and security and that, should the DPRK ignore calls of the international community, the Security Council will act consistent with its responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations.”

Shameless Other-Promotion

My friend and former co-worker Chris McIntosh has earned a “slot”: at TNR’s post-season baseball-blog “Deep in the Count.”:

The blog has some very good writing, although it’s premised on the inane assumption that baseball is not boring.

Here’s his bio:

bq. Chris McIntosh is a diehard Atlanta Braves fan by birth (yes, we do exist), a White Sox fan by marriage, and a Ph.D student at the University of Chicago via an oversight by the admissions committee. He writes for and and hopes his dissertation committee is aware of none of these things.