Friday, June 5, 2009

Testing, Testing from Aviation Week

"The nuclear test produced 'less than a 2-kiloton explosion,' says a Washington-based intelligence official. 'It was bigger than last time,but somewhat less than predicted.' perhaps only 10% of expectation. ... However it has yet to be determined if this was a uranium or plutonium device."

Translation. It was another fizzle. Twenty kilotons, the yield of the Hiroshima bomb, is always the design goal for beginner's nukes. Very few nukes less than 20 kilotons have ever been built, because it's hard to get them to go off. The only hard evidence is the 4.7 Richter scale reading for the current test, compared to 4.1 for the 2006 test which everyone agrees was a fizzle.

"I am fairly certain we will see much more interest in ballistic missile defense in Japan and South Korea," says Bernard Loo of the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

No kidding.

"For China, that could be one of the worst results of the test", says Loo. "Beijing does not want missile defense systems preliferating in its neighborhood since it maintains a nuclear arsenal the is modest by the standards of the US and Russia and would not bear significant attrition."

Maybe. Mr. Loo obviously thinks anti ballistic missile defenses are effective. I disagree, and I used to design the radar that guided the antimissiles. Plus, if the Chinese really didn't want the North Korean's to do nuclear tests, they could shut off the North Koreans supply of food and fuel. That would get their attention. In actual fact, the Chinese are happy to keep a thorn in the side of Americans in business.

"Gathering intelligence about North Korea is tough say the experts. Human intelligence sources are non existant, while rugged terrain, underground facilities and lack of overflight all conspire against observation. "

Again, maybe. Koreans all speak the same language, were colonized by the Japanese in the 1930's, and there are plenty of South Koreans with relatives in the North. You'd think an effective South Korean intelligence agency (KCIA they call it) would exploit these ties and have some sources in the North. KCIA is undoubtedly reluctant to share this with the Americans, given the Americans record of leaking top secret stuff to the New York Times.

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