Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now

North Korea is apparently planning a second nuclear device test, which comes on the heels of the acknowledgment by the US that the first test was indeed a small nuclear test. The tests also show that the nuclear material utilized in the first test was plutonium. It's a good news/bad news scenario:
The intelligence agencies’ finding that the weapon was based on plutonium strongly suggested that the country’s second path to a nuclear bomb — one using uranium — was not yet ready. The uranium program is based on enrichment equipment and know-how purchased from Pakistan’s former nuclear chief.

Nuclear experts said that the use of plutonium to make the bomb was important because it suggested that North Korea probably had only one nuclear program mature enough to produce weapons.

“This is good news because we have a reasonably good idea of how much plutonium they have made,” said Siegfried S. Hecker, the former chief of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and now a visiting professor at Stanford University. Mr. Hecker, who has visited North Korea and is one of the few foreigners to have seen parts of its nuclear infrastructure, said that it was his guess that “they tried to test a reasonably sophisticated device, and they had trouble imploding it properly.”
The bad news is that the North Koreans should be able to learn from their mistakes and fix the problems that resulted in the fizzle. Further, they're working on multiple fronts - producing plutonium based weapons and uranium based weapons.

Also, that the North Koreans are looking to make another test in relatively short order potentially undermines the assumption that the uranium based system was not quite ready. No one knows whether the North Koreans will test another plutonium based weapon or one based on uranium. Either way, it shows that the North does have sufficient materials for a significant number of nuclear weapons because they're willing to test multiple weapons.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are in the process of fencing off North Korea from China, without the kind of fanfare associated with efforts to fence off Mexico from the US.

For its part, North Korea considers the sanctions and the UN resolution an act of war. In that milieu, consider this posting at JunkYardBlog, and how the diplomatic maneuverings mean little when North Korea's intentions are completely detached from the goals and commonalities of the rest of the world. Negotiation and agreements are founded upon a principle of finding commonalities and working to a settlement acceptable to both sides. If one side refuses to deal at all, or moves the goalposts every few days to make it ever more difficult to reach an agreement, then there is no way to find a settlement, nor should one be contemplated.

Also, Iran continues with its own nuclear program, and you can be assured that Iran knows that the UN is completely ineffectual and cannot take any steps that would put an end to North Korea's nuclear program. Iran simply has to race to complete a nuclear weapon of its own, and they'll be in the same position as the North Koreans.

Confederate Yankee notes that the North Koreans have nothing else with which to threaten the world and that their fallback position may be an attack against South Korea. I concur as someone with their back up against the wall becomes quite dangerous and will do what it thinks it must to preserve its own power (and to hell with the citizens on both sides of the DMZ).

Chester has an interesting post that looks at various possibile outcomes for action, and how China might gain from each. Right now, it appears that we're on a trajectory to a controlled collapse, but the situation could change in a heartbeat depending on Kim's mood.

What is it with totalitarian regimes and their forced displays of public support?
Thousands of performers were corralled into the capital, Pyongyang, to take part in a spectacular synchronised torchlight display, in scenes reminiscent of the days of the Third Reich.

The event was orchestrated to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Down With Imperialism Union, started by the "Great Leader" of North Korea, Kim Il Sung. Speaking at a commemorative meeting on Monday, a senior party leader, Kim Yong Nam, praised the "recent successful underground test", which he said would "contribute to preserving peace and stability on the peninsula".
Kim's latest gambit was apparently months in the making - probably because the North Koreans had to scrounge for enough materials to light up all those fires. Let's not forget the labor camps and the gulag archipelago that Kim and his father created to deal with political prisoners.

Diane Sawyer of ABC News is in North Korea, and the picture she paints isn't a pretty one. North Korea is a complete and total mess, but they spent all kinds of time putting together that torchlight display.
We too are considered Yankees — a Chinese word that means "ocean demons."

Our cell phones and BlackBerries — anything that will allow us to reach the outside world — are confiscated.

As we drive into the city, there are just a handful of cars on the roads.
There isn't enough energy to run those cars, and the cellphones and Blackberries might not be able to get a signal in a country where the government tries to control all access to information. This country isn't called the hermit kingdom for no reason. It's also hell on earth because of Kim's economic and social policies. And Kim is trying to stave off the inevitable by going ahead with its nuclear program tests.

A photo of a portion of the North Korean demonstrations. I hope someone puts clips of this display on YouTube or other video service, because it is chilling. These people are being used by Kim and they have no choice in the matter.

DPRK Nighttime rally against the West - photo copied from channel4.com

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