Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dr. Intel Leaks, Or: How I learned to stop spinning and accept the fact that Kim has the bomb

To sanction or not to sanction...

BBC News:
Beijing - traditionally Pyongyang's closest ally - said it had not ruled out UN sanctions but that military action was "unimaginable".

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that proposes strict financial and trade sanctions.
BBC News (analysis):
China wants stability on the Korean peninsula; the last thing it wanted was an international crisis right on its doorstep.


But the situation is more complex than that. China fears that if it uses what leverage it does have, by stopping aid to North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang might collapse.

That could send a flood of refugees over the border into China - something that Beijing wants to avoid at all costs.
The New York Times:
SEOUL, South Korea, Oct. 10 — After a unanimous condemnation of North Korea’s apparent nuclear test, signs of disagreement appeared among its neighbors today, as Japanese officials pushed for tough sanctions and raised the possibility of military action, which China called unthinkable.
The Boston Globe:
UNITED NATIONS -- The United States proposed in emergency meetings yesterday that the UN Security Council employ a series of aggressive countermeasures against North Korea following Pyongyang's announcement that it had successfully conducted a nuclear test.

Diplomats who attended the closed-door meetings yesterday said US Ambassador John Bolton presented a list of suggestions that included international inspections of cargo coming to and from North Korea, a ban on all luxury items sent to the impoverished country, a freeze on some financial assets, and a total arms embargo.
How big was the device?

The Washington Times (this is such bad intelligence right now):
U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that seismic readings show that the conventional high explosives used to create a chain reaction in a plutonium-based device went off, but that the blast's readings were shy of a typical nuclear detonation.

"We're still evaluating the data, and as more data comes in, we hope to develop a clearer picture," said one official familiar with intelligence reports.

"There was a seismic event that registered about 4 on the Richter scale, but it still isn't clear if it was a nuclear test. You can get that kind of seismic reading from high explosives."
This was probably a 1 kiloton device, about 1/15th as powerful as the Hiroshima blast. That's not much, but there are plenty of explanations for a smaller blast. Intel analysts need to keep their mouths shut until we can get samples of the air and test those for radioactivity.

Intelligence leaks almost always convey hidden agendas somewhere. I am very alarmed that a conservative newspaper received information like this in October.

The Boston Globe:
``A general rule of thumb is that a seismic magnitude of 4.0 to 4.25 equals about 1 kiloton," said Philip E. Coyle III , who formerly oversaw US nuclear tests for the Department of Energy and is now a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information in Washington.

The weapon the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II had an equivalent yield of between 11,000 and 15,000 tons of TNT, according to a fact sheet provided by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Added Corey Hinderstein , a nuclear weapons specialist at the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative: ``It would appear from the information coming out that this was likely a relatively small nuclear test. It seems to center around a kiloton."

She said that the makeup of the device cannot be determined by the size of the blast but can be confirmed only by studying air and possibly water particles in the area.

``It is most likely to be a plutonium device, because we do know that North Korea has at least a small stockpile of separated plutonium that could be used in weapons," Hinderstein said. ``If it is a uranium device, then they are much further along than is the conventional wisdom."
The San Francisco Chronicle:
Questions also have been raised about whether the device worked to its full potential. The suspected low yield of the blast -- estimated at less than 1 kiloton, or 1,000 tons of explosive -- suggests it might not have fired exactly right.

Nevertheless, those like May who understand engineering challenges of nuclear weaponry say the North's capabilities, while comparatively crude, appear to be genuine and probably are improving.

"They're clearly not incompetent," he said.


Post a Comment

<< Home