As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Does North Korea Really Have Nuclear Weapons?

In her Asia trip, Hillary Clinton called for an end to North Korea's nuclear program and threatened increasing isolation and pressure. She said that the world basically agrees and that the rogue state has no friends left. North Korea responded by criticizing Hillary's appearance. Because Kim Jong-il is such a stunner.

But I've said before that the proper way to react to a country as desperate for attention as North Korea is not seriousness. It's mockery. And the mockery is well-earned, especially because that vaunted nuclear program may not be so vaunted:

Let us suppose, for the moment, that the DPRK actually did explode 2,500 tons of TNT instead of a nuclear device. How could they load a tunnel with so much conventional explosive and not be detected by the West’s satellites? This was the real reason I was so sure it had been a nuclear explosion. I was convinced, unfortunately before doing a very simple calculation, that the trucks filled with high explosive (HE) would be detected.

However, it is not all that much HE. If TNT was used, as opposed to a higher density explosive like RDX, North Korea would only have to excavate a cavity 12 meters on a side and fill it with high explosives.

If four 10-ton trucks delivered their load each night (with a fifth truck coming every 10th day) they could drop off all the HE within two months. Using RDX, or some other higher density explosive, could significantly decrease this time. That seems quite doable and to be potentially undetectable by the West.

I don't really believe that North Korean scientists have developed what they claim to have developed. And if someone high-up in the United States government called their bluff, while keeping with the sanctions and demands for inspectors, the entire facade could crumble. We need more intelligence, but it's worth exploring whether the boasts match reality.

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