Along the Tracks

Monday, October 21, 2002

'More powerful weapons'

When the North Koreans came clean with a U.S. delegation concerning NK's atomic weapons program, they were bold, even beligerent, in their statements, claiming they had nukes and "more powerful weapons." The media has completely ignored this statement, brushing it off as refering to chemical or biological weapons - which makes no sense at all.

The implied threat here seems clear to me: The North Koreans are claiming to have thermonuclear capabilities, i.e., a hydrogen bomb. If true, it is frightening.

Some history: The United States had its first successful test of a thermonuclear device seven years after its first successful test of a fission bomb. North Korea is thought to have completed its first atomic bomb in the mid-'90s - about seven years ago.

This comparison may not be entirely appropriate, considering North Korea's horrible economy and the sanctions it faces - but let's remember, they got around all that and built a couple of atomic bombs anyway. I'm no expert on fusion, so I don't know whether the technical aspects of creating such a device are another order of magnitude in difficulty compared with fission. And more importantly, I don't know what materials NK might need to create such a device. But if Kim has succeeded, at least theoretically, in obtaining a hydrogen bomb, when combined with his rapidly advancing missile program, his dictatorship soon will pose not just a "rogue" threat, but a strategic threat to East Asia and to the United States. This may explain the Bush administration's low-key response to North Korea's abbrogration of its 1994 agreement - they're trying to figure out just what they are dealing with, and how imminent the danger is.

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