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2003 June 30 Monday
CIA Says North Korea Developing Miniature Nuclear Warheads

The New York Times has an important story by David Sanger on the CIA's new assessment that the North Koreans are trying to develop miniaturized nuclear bombs that can fit on their missiles.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. intelligence officials now think North Korea is developing the technology to make nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop the country's growing arsenal of missiles, potentially putting Tokyo and U.S. troops based in Japan at risk, according to officials who have received the intelligence reports.

In the assessment, which they have shared with Japan, South Korea and other allies in recent weeks, CIA officials said that U.S. satellites have identified a sophisticated new nuclear testing site, called Youngdoktong.

Of course we have very limited information about what is really going in in North Korea. While the CIA's interpretation of the purpose of the new facility at Youngdoktong may well be correct it is hard to tell how quickly the North Koreans will be able to accomplish their goals.

Kenneth Quinones, a former North Korea analyst for the U.S. State Department during the Clinton Administration, says in an interview with the Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiui that North Korea will be able to test a nuclear bomb by December 2003.

The more I talked to my friends, the more I realized that it is possible for North Korea to have a nuclear weapon by December. It is possible they'll have a test by December. There is nothing to stop North Korea from doing this.

Quinones does not think that North Korea is anywhere near as close to minaturizing as is claimed in the New York Times story. Read his full interview for the details.

The problem with the various interpretations of North Korean activities is that the US can not afford to underestimate North Korea's capabilities. Currently US policy toward North Korea amounts to an attempt to organize an informal embargo against North Korea. The US is making progress toward that goal and the Pyongyang regime's revenues from drug smuggling, missile sales, and other activities will probably be reduced by the cooperative efforts of the US, Japan, Australia, and other friendly nations that are cooperating to reduce North Korean revenues. But the US really needs more arrows in its quiver.

In my previous post North Korean Leaders: Let Them Eat Sneakers see my exchange in the comments section with Chris Beaumont of the Free North Korea blog for some ideas on how to corrupt the North Korean regime and how to reach the North Korean people with information about the outside world. Given that newspapers are rare in North Korea the North Korean people are rather information starved and they don't even get much written material of a propagandistic nature. If we could reach the North Korean people with printed matter and radios we could have a big impact on how the North Koreans view their regime and the regime's hold on them could be considerably weakened.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 30 11:06 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control


Comments
The Marmot said at July 2, 2003 3:12 PM:

"The US is making progress toward that goal and the Pyongyang regime's revenues from drug smuggling, missile sales, and other activities will probably be reduced by the cooperative efforts of the US, Japan, Australia, and other friendly nations that are cooperating to reduce North Korean revenues."

I couldn't help but notice that a certain country was missing from that list of "friendly" nations. Good thing, too - Seoul is wasting little time in discounting the report. I don't blame them for being skeptical about American intelligence data, but I do blame them, if the leaks going to the Korean press are true, for ruling it out so quickly. Actually, the Blue House might be taking the NYT report seriously, but if they are, they're keeping that concern carefully hidden from the South Korean public.

Randall Parker said at July 2, 2003 6:01 PM:

Yes, it was a conscious decision on my part to leave South Korea off the list of friendly nations.

The Marmot said at July 2, 2003 6:11 PM:

I figured it was - and a wise one decision it was, too.


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