North Korea WMDs: An Update
Several opportunities to test a nuclear weapon have come and went. North Korea now says it does not intend to test a nuclear weapon. That is a change from what it said less than 2 weeks ago. It has also missed payment on it’s first South Korean food loan program.
Whether reversing a nuke test decision is true or not yet remains to be seen.
This much is known… North Korea has made massive preparations for a 3rd underground nuclear test. More pretest activity has been observed via satellite than before either of its two previous underground nuclear tests.
Does North Korea now speak the truth or will history be repeated?
An Established Pattern
DPRK has followed a 3-year cycle established in 2006 and 2009 when tandem missile-nuclear tests have occurred. The North has already conducted the missile half of the tandem in April of this year. 2012 is three years since the last tandem tests.
For the moment, no news of May or June activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test facility has yet been reported. All appears quiet on the eastern front.
It’s hard to believe that North Korea would go to all the trouble to prepare a 3rd nuclear detonation and then not follow through. It is especially suspicious given DPRK’s established pattern of behavior and public statements about being a nuclear power 2 weeks ago.
It leads to this logical conclusion… there is some technical problem related to the 3rd nuclear test.
Rumor has it this new one is supposed to be a more sophisticated uranium test than the previous two plutonium explosions. The North has recently switched its enrichment facilities from plutonium to uranium and is rapidly constructing a light-water uranium reactor.
The North’s 5-Mw plutonium reactor, its ultimate source for weapons-grade plutonium, is shut down and will never run again. Its cooling tower has been destroyed.
That lends credibility to the theory that DPRK has encountered a serious technical glitch that may prevent the North from conducting another test until the new plant under construction is completed. Only then might enough uranium be produced to build a bomb. That could be years.
The North has a penchant for conducting its weapons of mass destruction (WDM) tests on U.S. holidays. One was on Memorial Day and two others were on the 4th of July.
The 4th of July rolls around again in three weeks.
Should that day come an go without a nuclear test then it seems likely the North did have a glitch and may be unable to test another nuclear weapon for several more years.