North Korea Blows It

North Korea’s big, “welcome to the nuclear club,” bash apparently didn’t work out as well as expected:

“U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that seismic readings show that the conventional high explosives used to create a chain reaction in a plutonium-based device went off, but that the blast’s readings were shy of a typical nuclear detonation.

“We’re still evaluating the data, and as more data comes in, we hope to develop a clearer picture,” said one official familiar with intelligence reports.

“There was a seismic event that registered about 4 on the Richter scale, but it still isn’t clear if it was a nuclear test. You can get that kind of seismic reading from high explosives.”

If it is confirmed that the Norks didn’t actually explode a nuclear bomb yesterday, that brings to mind two possibilities.

The most likely, given the failure of the Taepodong-2 launch back in July, is that they tried to detonate a nuclear weapon and failed. Is that reassuring? Not really. Incompetence and nuclear weapons are not two things that go well together, like Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Another possibility, which is admittedly less likely, is that they haven’t built any nuclear weapons and were attempting to fake an explosion. Granted, the general consensus does seem to be that the Norks had nukes since the Clinton Administration, but in a closed society like North Korea, do we really know that for a fact or are our intelligence agencies simply guessing?

Why would they fake an explosion? Perhaps because they errantly believe that nuclear weapons are the only thing keeping the US from attacking them. On the other hand, maybe it’s just a delaying tactic and they’re trying to, “fake it until they make it.” Then there’s the possibility that they want the world to believe they have nukes so they can use that as a bargaining chip in negotiations. Otherwise, what does a poor, backwards country like North Korea have to offer other than its willingness to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for goodies?

Whatever the case may be, we still have a starving, threatening, incompetent, unpredictable, dictatorial regime that may or may not have nuclear weapons. That’s a dangerous situation and it really needs to be taken a little more seriously by everyone involved, from the Bush Administration to the Democrats who’ve offered no support for Bush’s policy or workable alternatives to it, to the “international community.”

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