Jay Reding.com

North Korea Tests Nuke

The North Korean government has successfully tested a nuclear weapon today, exploding the device underground. The yield of the device was between 5-15 kilotons, which is under the yield of the first American nuclear weapons. Already there have been strong reactions from other regional powers such as Japan, South Korea, and China.

China’s reaction will be the most interesting. The Chinese have been keeping North Korea afloat, but they have no interest in seeing the DPRK becoming a nuclear power. They know that now Japan and South Korea are also likely to go nuclear in response, which diminishes their power relative to their neighbors. The Chinese also know that trade, the lifeblood of the New China, would be disrupted by a regional conflict. If the Chinese feel sufficiently threatened, it’s anyone’s guess as to how they might react.

We’ve known that North Korea was nuclear-capable for some time, so this test isn’t necessarily a shock. But by being so brazen, the North Koreans may have made a grave tactical error. If their Chinese patrons decide that the DPRK constitutes a threat to Chinese interests, it is quite possible that the North Koreans may face sanctions or even worse.

UPDATE: Op-For has more observations on the situation.

UPDATE: The yield of the North Korean test was 5-15 kilotons. The yield of the nuclear weapons used to end the Second World War were 15-17 kilotons. The North Korean weapon produced a very small yield for a nuke. It looks like North Korea’s bombs don’t work much better than their missiles.

Good thing President Bush decided to get us out of the 1972 ABM treaty, just in case.

28 responses to “North Korea Tests Nuke”

  1. Seth says:

    Good thing we got out of the ABM? Are you saying we need to produce more nukes to intimidate North Korea? Are you seriously saying that North Korea would not be deterred by a country that could blow it up 4,000,000 times but will be deterred by a country that can blow it up 6,000,000 times?
    Who tought you foreign relations? You’re to the right of Kissinger on this.

  2. Nicq MacDonald says:

    Aw, come on Seth, you’re no fun.

    Anyway, NK having Nukes = Sweetness. Why, might you ask?

    NK having nukes means that Shinzo Abe will de-neutralize Japan’s constitution, and a new millitarism craze will hit Japan.

    This craze will cause trillions of yen to flow in the direction of millitary contracts and development… and in the case of Japan… you know what that means?

    GIANT WAR ROBOTS! Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi are all competing to be the first with a prototype, I’ll wager.

    Giant War Robots = Sweetness. NK having Nukes = Giant War Robots. Therefore, NK having Nukes = Sweetness.

    Now, if they can just get some ninjas… oh yeah…

  3. Jay Reding says:

    Good thing we got out of the ABM? Are you saying we need to produce more nukes to intimidate North Korea?

    Um, evidently you have not a clue as to what you’re talking about. The 1972 ABM Treaty doesn’t have anything to do with “more nukes” but a ban on creating anti-ballistic missile technology. (That’s what the ABM part means.) That means using airborne lasers to shoot down incoming missiles, ground-based interceptors to shoot them down in space, or using Aegis-class cruisers to shoot down missiles as they’re leaving the atmosphere.

    That doesn’t include the use of nuclear weapons, as detonating a nuke in space would fry our own satellites and would be a monumentally stupid thing to do, which is why we’re not developing such technology.

    Again, doing a modicum of basic research is recommended.

    Nicq: I’ll give you giant war robots being cool. However, if the Japanese start developing “walking chrome toasters” with red LED eyes that go back and forth, I’ll be in the nearest bunker…

  4. Justin says:

    Except that ABM doesn’t currently, you know, work.

    All in all it’s an astounding failure of the Bush administration. Bush thought the answer to the NK problem was to pull out of Clinton’s accords and talk tough but not do anything to back it up. What a surprise – NK resumed development of nuclear weapons. Who knew that talking a big game and then capitulating would be a lot less effective than reaching a mutually advantageous compromise? Who knew besides people with brains, I mean.

    That doesn’t include the use of nuclear weapons, as detonating a nuke in space would fry our own satellites

    I doubt that very much. Satellites in orbit, after all, are already exposed to a massive, ongoing nuclear detonation – it’s called “the Sun.” Certainly the EM flux would overwhelm the shielding of satellites in the immediate vicinity of the explosion, if there happened to be any; but the Earth’s magnetic field as well as the Earth itself would prevent damage to the majority of our satellite assets.

  5. Seth says:

    Jay–
    Sorry. I was giving you credit for not being a complete idiot. I suppose I should know better by now.

    Ther were two arguments for pulling out of the ABM. One is that the situation with Russia had changed dramatically and a balance of power was no longer necessary. The other is that we are so far ahead of the rest of the world that even if we pull out and everyone else proliferates, we will be able to shoot down their nukes.

    The first argument is much less weak–I apologize for thinking you would use a stronger arguement.

    You are actaully making the argument that our defense shield–which we have given tens of billions of dollars to defense contractors in the past few years for absolutely no progress–will be ready in time to deter North Korea from firing at us. Assuming that North Korea will only be deterred if we can hit them and they can’t hit us, we would have to have a fully functional shield sometime in the next few years before North Korea gains the ability for long-range missiles. To think we are anywhere close is idiotic even for you. It also places all of our troops in SE asia at risk and let’s not mention how badly we are throwing Japan and S. Korea under the bus.

    With you, asking for a “modicum of basic research” would be far too complicated. We’ll try to start with an inkling of common sense.

    And if you graduate to being able to do a little research, why don’t you tell us all how well tests of the missile defense system are coming? I’ll give you a little hint–the news isn’t good.

  6. Jay Reding says:

    Ther were two arguments for pulling out of the ABM. One is that the situation with Russia had changed dramatically and a balance of power was no longer necessary. The other is that we are so far ahead of the rest of the world that even if we pull out and everyone else proliferates, we will be able to shoot down their nukes.

    The first argument is roughly true – the Soviet empire is long gone. (Or unless Putin revives it again, it is.) The second is wrongly described. The argument is that we know that proliferation is happening, and we need to prevent it from posing a threat. Pakistan already had the bomb. We knew the DPRK was close to one in 2001. Libya was far along as well at that point.

    It wasn’t that it we shouldn’t worry about proliferation, it was that proliferation was already happening, and we needed to take steps to ameliorate what was already a threat.

    You are actaully making the argument that our defense shield–which we have given tens of billions of dollars to defense contractors in the past few years for absolutely no progress–will be ready in time to deter North Korea from firing at us.

    I’d wager we’ll have working ABM tech before the North Koreans are able to get the Taepo-Dong II working.

    Assuming that North Korea will only be deterred if we can hit them and they can’t hit us, we would have to have a fully functional shield sometime in the next few years before North Korea gains the ability for long-range missiles. To think we are anywhere close is idiotic even for you. It also places all of our troops in SE asia at risk and let’s not mention how badly we are throwing Japan and S. Korea under the bus.

    Again, we are very close. The ground-based interceptors are still theoretical. What isn’t theoretical is using the Aegis-class cruisers we already have to hit a missile in their boost phase.

    Furthermore, Japan and South Korea are not being “thrown under the bus” but in fact are partners in developing ABM defenses. The Japanese already possess Aegis-class cruisers capable of being deployed close enough to Japan to intercept a North Korean missile. In fact, it’s easier for them because the trajectories are much shorter than an intercontinental trajectory — the missiles fly at much lower altitudes.

    And if you graduate to being able to do a little research, why don’t you tell us all how well tests of the missile defense system are coming? I’ll give you a little hint–the news isn’t good.

    On the contrary, the last Aegis BMD system test was a success. The ground-based interceptors haven’t done as well, but they’re trying to hit a missile at a much farther distance. The Aegis-class BMD is the sort of tech we’d use to intercept North Korean missiles, and it has been quite successful.

  7. Seth says:

    So if you read the article you linked to, we now have an exploding nuclear missile 100 miles above the Ocean. Well damn I feel safe. I’ll bet Japan does too. I’ll bet Japan is just sleeping safe and sound in their blanket of what you call success.

  8. Jay Reding says:

    So if you read the article you linked to, we now have an exploding nuclear missile 100 miles above the Ocean.

    Which doesn’t do anything. Plenty of nuclear weapons and submarines have sunk in the ocean. Uranium isn’t that destructive, and plutonium is worse, but 28kg or so of uranium or plutonium spread over the entire width of the ocean would have pretty much no effect.

    Well damn I feel safe. I’ll bet Japan does too. I’ll bet Japan is just sleeping safe and sound in their blanket of what you call success.

    Japan is one of the countries involved in the testing and development of the Aegis BMD.

  9. Justin says:

    “Which doesn’t do anything. ”

    Except produce a bunch of fallout. There’s little difference between what you’re talking about and detonating a dirty bomb at the same altitude.

  10. Seth says:

    A nuclear bomb exploding in the Earth’s atmosphere “doesn’t do anything.”

    Simply amazing.

  11. Jay Reding says:

    A nuclear bomb exploding in the Earth’s atmosphere “doesn’t do anything.”

    Except for the part where it doesn’t explode – it just spreads the subcritical mass around. The North Koreans don’t use highly toxic plutonium, but relatively harmless uranium. If the amount of uranium in a nuclear warhead were spread over the ocean, it might cause a fuss, but the health hazards wouldn’t be great at all.

    Plutonium is highly toxic, but when you’re talking about spreading it out over a wide area, the effect is still not great, especially since your hypothetical involves shooting it down over the ocean.

    A dirty bomb spreads contaminates over a small area, a mid-air destruction wouldn’t produce the same concentration. This is basic science.

    Simply amazing.

    Not to anyone who paid attention in high school science. A nuclear weapon can’t explode unless it reaches criticality, which doesn’t happen when the warhead is destroyed.

  12. Seth says:

    I can’t argue with someone who thinks weapons-grade plutonium in the Earth’s atmosphere is harmless. You really are an idiot of the first degree.

  13. Jay Reding says:

    I can’t argue with someone who thinks weapons-grade plutonium in the Earth’s atmosphere is harmless. You really are an idiot of the first degree.

    I didn’t say “harmless” I said “the effect is still not great” when it is spread out over a wide area. Which happens to be true. There would be contamination, but nuclear weapons have already blown apart and the contamination has been manageable. In the Palomares case, that detonation occurred when the bomb impacted, so the contamination was greater.

    Given the choice of disrupting a warhead and dealing with the contamination or having it detonate, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which is the better option.

    (As an aside, is there some rule that leftists have to be assholes. I would advise commenters to remember who owns this site, and if you can’t make a point without an ad hominem I will remove your post or ban you.)

  14. Seth says:

    Of course, the best option is to not pursue a path that would lead them to shoot the nuke in the first place. That thought has not occured to the right wing.

    Jay, you’ve gone ad hominem with me many, many times. I’ve asked you to be civil on several occasions. I’d happily stop if you’ll agree to do the same. Of course, calling someone an asshole while whining that they call you names leaves some room to be desired in the moral superiority department. It’s your site and if I’m too much for you ban me–I’d just hate for you to look like a hypocrite doing it.

  15. Jay Reding says:

    Of course, the best option is to not pursue a path that would lead them to shoot the nuke in the first place. That thought has not occured to the right wing.

    Which exposes the absolute and utter naivete of the left these days: Kim Jung Il, to put it in the common parlance, is completely bugnuts. The idea that he can be negotiated with or reasoned into seeing things in a rational way depends far too much on him being a rational actor: which is manifestly not the case.

    The fact that the left seems to put more implicit trust in madmen like Kim Jung Il and Saddam Hussein then our own elected leaders is yet another example of why they should not be allowed anywhere near power.

  16. Justin says:

    “The North Koreans don’t use highly toxic plutonium, but relatively harmless uranium.”

    Exactly wrong – the NK device was a plutonium bomb. They’re decades away from enriching uranium; they ceased all efforts to do so and switched back to plutonium when Bush pulled out of the agreement.

    Plutonium burns at high temperatures, genius. In particle form it’s a powerful mutagen particularly when inhaled. Hey, if you don’t believe me, ask the millions who suffered as a result of the fuel particles Chernobyl released over Northern Europe. Amazing what you could have learned in a science class. If you don’t understand the result of particalized dispersion of fissionable material, I suggest you google “dirty bomb.”

    The effect is even worse because it’s spread out over a wide area, as it would be for high-atmosphere plutonium combustion. Stick to politics; your grasp of science leaves much to be desired.

  17. Justin says:

    “A nuclear weapon can’t explode unless it reaches criticality, which doesn’t happen when the warhead is destroyed.”

    Jesus open a book. Nuclear weapons typically contain several tons of conventional explosives to force criticality. Those can definately explode when hit by an antimissile missle.

  18. Jay Reding says:

    Jesus open a book. Nuclear weapons typically contain several tons of conventional explosives to force criticality. Those can definately explode when hit by an antimissile missle.

    It’s one thing to be wrong, it’s another thing to be wrong and be a dick about it.

    You can’t have criticality when the conventional explosive is scattered everywhere, along with the fissile material. That’s pretty damn basic.

    Given that you’ve contributed nothing but idiocy and arrogance since being unbanned, it’s back to the pit with you…

  19. Erica says:

    Way to completely miss the point, Jay. Nobody’s talking about criticality. We’re talking about the entirely obvious results of destroying a plutonium warhead 100 miles in the air with chemical explosives. (Those results? Burning plutonium, micro-sized particles of radioactive plutonium oxide, windborne dispersion of highly carcinogenic particles, all without any sort of nuclear detonation whatsoever.)

    Honestly, why not be honest at this point and admit you’re simply banning individuals who are too good at making arguments you don’t have the facts to address?

  20. Jay Reding says:

    Way to completely miss the point, Jay. Nobody’s talking about criticality. We’re talking about the entirely obvious results of destroying a plutonium warhead 100 miles in the air with chemical explosives. (Those results? Burning plutonium, micro-sized particles of radioactive plutonium oxide, windborne dispersion of highly carcinogenic particles, all without any sort of nuclear detonation whatsoever.)

    Let’s assume all that is true, and that the effects of scattered plutonium would be highly disruptive. Even if all of that is true, having a nuclear detonation is one hell of a lot worse. The idea that we shouldn’t try to shoot down a nuke in flight because we’re worried about scattering plutonium doesn’t make a lot of sense – it either detonates and definitely kills thousands (or even millions), or we risk scattering some nuclear material into the Sea of Japan. Given the choice, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which course of action is the more correct.

    Honestly, why not be honest at this point and admit you’re simply banning individuals who are too good at making arguments you don’t have the facts to address?

    Because that isn’t true.

    I don’t tolerate stupidity, and I really don’t tolerate offensive levels of stupidity. When you have someone who clearly doesn’t know how to behave as a guest on someone’s site, then it’s not worth it. There’s no point in refuting someone who tries to argue that the sky is purple, and there’s no reason to bother with someone who makes a dumb argument like the economy being a zero-sum game, that’s something every educated person should know not to be true. I can accept critical comments, I can accept people making dumb arguments, and I can except a certain amount of liberal talking points, but since I pay the bills, I only have to accept a certain amount of it, and won’t tolerate the sort of idiotic styles of “argumentation” found on fever swamps like Kos or DU. The level of discourse on this site will not be allowed to descend to that level.

    Since it is my policy not to edit comments in any way, my two choices are to start deleting comments entirely or ban the person making them.

    Those who don’t like that are more than welcome to go elsewhere.

  21. Erica says:

    I think it’s pretty ridiculous to sit there and presume to lecture anybody about “civility”, all the while calling someone “stupid” who you’ve prevented from having any ability to defend themselves.

    Everybody here can recognize your assertion that “Justin’s arguments are too stupid for me to need to respond” for exactly what it is – a transparent dodge to weasel out of addressing a challenge you don’t have a rebuttal for. If you did, we would have seen it by now. If what he was saying was really so stupid, you would have looked a lot smarter by proving so rather than simply by saying so.

    “I can accept critical comments, I can accept people making dumb arguments, and I can except a certain amount of liberal talking points”

    No, you can’t. That’s what everybody can see. You can’t accept any of that, so you label it all “stupid” and allow only chattering sycophants to post freely and tolerate only the most unchallenging liberals.

    “The level of discourse on this site will not be allowed to descend to that level.”

    Your discorse never rises above that level, Jay. Anybody who’s uncivil on this blog is simply following your example or responding to your goading. It’s hilariously hypocritical for you to accuse others of ad hominem or even just failing to be “polite” at the same time that you sling playground name-calling and spittle-flecked rants.

  22. Erica says:

    Jay, you should learn that you shouldn’t dish it out if you can’t take it. You’ve played the arrogant card many times, so don’t be surprised and hurt when people give it right back. And you shouldn’t let the people who agree with you dish it out, if those who disagree with you aren’t also allowed to do so. You could have banned Eracus many times over, for example. Sometimes I think for a little while before I post, because some issues are very personal for me, and I know that posting certain things will trigger your mean response. Banning Justin makes you a huge hypocrite. But it is your site, so I guess you’re free to be one.

  23. Seth says:

    Jay–
    Again, you can talk about how mean we are to you, but hopefully I won’t need to go back to some of your comments to me and show you you’ve done exactly the same thing. It is your site, but holding commenters and readers to a different standard than you hold yourself to seems a little out of line.

    KJ-I is a nutjob. That’s why it’s best not to repeatedly rile him up and get him agitated. Getting involved in his name calling and rhetorical games only makes things worse–it is unfortunate that this is the extent of Bush’s “diplomacy” with regards to NK.

    America will not take him down. What will take KJ-I and the regime down is a North Korean people entering a market economy and learning that it is better and more fulfilling than the current economy. Which is exactly why an embargo of luxury goods is completely the wrong message to send.

  24. Jay Reding says:

    As I said before, this is my site, and since I pay the bills, I make the rules. I will tolerate a certain amount of snark, a few casual ad hominem from time to time, and even a few dumb arguments as I am certainly not immune to those things myself. However, patterns of behavior which greatly annoy me will result in public humiliation and/or banning.

    Back on topic, Kim Jung Il is unquestionably a meglomaniac and a narcissist. One of the last things that such an individual needs is behavior which feeds into those fantasies.

    The Bush Administration has done the only realistic thing they could do: isolate North Korea. No bilateral talks, as those are opportunities for grandstanding on their part. The Administration has rightly insisted on multilateral talks involving all the interested actors, and won’t bow to North Korean demands.

    At the end of the day, even with a nuke, North Korea can only threaten. Kim Jung Il doesn’t seem to be suicidal, and he’ll only rattle the cage as much as he knows he can get away with. Now that the Chinese are starting to come down on his regime, I’m not so sure that the bluster will last much longer.

  25. Seth says:

    I suppose only a con would draw arbitrary lines for which to ban people and then ban them under the giuse of insulting behavior. If the rules are going to apply to everyone but yourself, just disable comments.

    The Chinese have come down on NK before and it has produced some limited success. But you have to wonder–why is NK risking angering its only ally in the region, China? Why would NK risk losing the only country that has enough sway to alter US foreign policy? The answer is because of our rash behavior, KJI is convinced the US is going to attack. Therefore, China can’t sanction and it doesn’t matter if China is on NK’s side, because NK’s only goal now is self-preservation. By convincing a mad man that we are going to attack him, we have created a situation in which no rational diplomacy has a shot and where the only possible outcome is a nuclear-arms-brandishing North Korea.

  26. Jay Reding says:

    I suppose only a con would draw arbitrary lines for which to ban people and then ban them under the giuse of insulting behavior. If the rules are going to apply to everyone but yourself, just disable comments.

    Don’t tempt me.

    The Chinese have come down on NK before and it has produced some limited success. But you have to wonder–why is NK risking angering its only ally in the region, China?

    Because they think they can get away with it. And they may be right.

    Why would NK risk losing the only country that has enough sway to alter US foreign policy?

    I don’t think that they (or anyone else) thinks that China would sway US policy. What does sway US policy are the thousands of artillery pieces ready to rain fire down on Seoul.

    The answer is because of our rash behavior, KJI is convinced the US is going to attack.

    They’re not stupid. We would never risk Seoul being shelled. The North Koreans know damn well that a military option is off the table, which is why they’re provoking us. You don’t provoke someone who has enough nukes to utterly destroy your nation.

    Therefore, China can’t sanction and it doesn’t matter if China is on NK’s side, because NK’s only goal now is self-preservation.

    No, China can sanction, it’s just that the North Koreans don’t think they will. The Chinese may support sanctions, but even they pass there will be so much cheating that they won’t matter all that much. The DPRK knows damn well that sanctions regimes are a joke.

    By convincing a mad man that we are going to attack him, we have created a situation in which no rational diplomacy has a shot and where the only possible outcome is a nuclear-arms-brandishing North Korea.

    Which is a nice theory, but it has nothing to do with reality.

  27. Seth says:

    Wait, in the comment above, you say that NK doesn’t think China will sanction. In a comment to the post above, you say that China has sanctioned NK in the past. I’m trying to figure out how to reconcile the assertion that NK doesn’t think China will sanction when China has already sanctioned in the past.

    You don’t think China could sway US policy on that peninsula? Yikes.

    I would submit that brinkmanship with a mad man is more of a joke than trying to engage the people of NK and giving their neighbors the tools to solve problems in their own back yard. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  28. I hope you can elaborate on that in the future.