North Korea's Third Nuclear Test Ready 'Soon'
April 25, 2012
A senior North Korean army official says his country is armed with "powerful mobile weapons" capable of striking America.
Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho emphasized the importance of defending the North against the U.S. and South Korea as Pyongyang marked the 80th anniversary of the nation's army Wednesday.
He told officials at the April 25 House of Culture that the weapons could defeat the U.S. "at a single blow."
North Korea made another unusual claim Monday, promising "special actions" that would reduce Seoul's government to ashes.
North Korea is believed to have nuclear weapons but not the technology to put them on long-range missiles. A rocket launch that the U.S. claimed was a North Korean attempt to test missile technology failed this month.
April 24, 2012
North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test, a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters, which will draw further international condemnation following a failed rocket launch if it goes ahead.
The isolated and impoverished state sacrificed the chance of closer ties with the United States when it launched the long-range rocket on April 13 and was censured by the U.N. Security Council, including the North's sole major ally, China.
Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at honing the North's ability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, a move that would dramatically increase its military and diplomatic heft.
Now the North appears to be about to carry out a third nuclear test after two in 2006 and 2009.
"Soon. Preparations are almost complete," the source said when asked whether North Korea was planning to conduct a nuclear test.
This is the first time a senior official has confirmed the planned test and the source has correctly predicted events in the past, telling Reuters about the 2006 test days before it happened.
The rocket launch and nuclear test come as Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to rule North Korea, seeks to cement his grip on power.
Kim took office in December and has lauded the country's military might, reaffirming his father's "military first" policies that have stunted economic development and appearing to dash slim hopes of an opening to the outside world.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, which have most to fear from any North Korean nuclear threat, are watching events anxiously and many observers say that Pyongyang may have the capacity to conduct a test using highly enriched uranium for the first time.
Defense experts say that by successfully enriching uranium, to make bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima nearly 70 years ago, the North would be able to significantly build up stocks of weapons-grade nuclear material.
It would also allow it more easily to manufacture a nuclear warhead to mount on a long-range missile.
The source did not specify whether the test would be a third test using plutonium, of which it has limited stocks, or whether Pyongyang would use uranium.
South Korean defense sources have been quoted in domestic media as saying a launch could come within two weeks and one North Korea analyst has suggested that it could come as early as the North's "Army Day" on Wednesday.
Other observers say that any date is pure speculation.
The rocket launch and the planned nuclear test have exposed the limits of China's hold over Pyongyang. Beijing is the North's sole major ally and props up the state with investment and fuel.
"China is like a chameleon toward North Korea," said Kim Young-soo, professor of political science at Sogang University in Seoul. "It says it objects to North Korea's provocative acts, but it does not participate in punishing the North."
Reports have suggested that a Chinese company may have supplied a rocket launcher shown off at a military parade to mark this month's centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the state's founder, something that may be in breach of UN sanctions.
China has denied breaching sanctions.
YOUNGEST KIM STILL IN CHARGE DESPITE ROCKET FIASCO
The source said there was debate in North Korea's top leadership over whether to go ahead with the launch in the face of U.S. warnings and the possibility of further U.N. sanctions, but that hawks in the Korean People's Army had won the debate.
The source dismissed speculation that the failed launch had dealt a blow to Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, who came to power after his father Kim Jong-il died following a 17-year rule that saw North Korea experience a famine in the 1990s.
"Kim Jong-un was named first secretary of the (ruling) Workers' Party and head of the National Defence Commission," the source said, adding that the titles further consolidated his grip on power.
North Korean media has recently upped its criticism of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who cut off aid to Pyongyang when he took power in 2008, calling him a "rat" and a "bastard" and threatening to turn the South Korean capital to ashes.
Pyongyang desperately wants recognition from the United States, the guarantor of the South's security. It claims sovereignty over the entire Korean peninsula, as does South Korea.
"North Korea may consider abandoning (the test) if the United States agrees to a peace treaty," the source said, reiterating a long-standing demand by Pyongyang for recognition by Washington and a treaty to end the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce.
April 27, 2012
Following the North Korean military's vow to defeat the U.S. with "powerful modern weapons," U.S. analysts have discovered that the country's missiles are actually fakes. The revelation is embarrassing by its own right but doubly so considering the country just threatened to defeat its enemies with the apparently phony weaponry. Called your bluff?
Today, The Associated Press' Eric Talmadge surveys analysts who studied photos of the missiles North Korea trotted out at its recent military parade. At first blush, the missiles appeared to be new and capable of long-range attacks, but after a closer inspection, analysts doubt the missiles could even get off the ground. "The weapons displayed April 15 appear to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together," writes the news agency.
"The metal is too thin to withstand flight. Each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make. They don't even fit the launchers they were carried on." Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker at Germany's Schmucker Technologies say "There is no doubt that these missiles were mock-ups." David Wright, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the missiles are actually "clumsy representations of a missile that is being developed."This is all rather amusing considering a Bloomberg report on Wednesday that had North Korea's Vice Marshal Ri Yong vowing to defeat the U.S. with its advanced ballistic missile arsenal.
“We are able to continuously corner the U.S. and forcefully retaliate to the enemy’s provocative schemes for war,” Ri said. He added that the army had developed "powerful modern weapons" capable of bringing down the U.S.David Wright, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the missiles are actually "clumsy representations of a missile that is being developed."
Taken together, this reflects two recurring behaviors we've come to rely on from Pyongyang. First, there's North Korea's exaggerations of its technical prowess, as the breakup of its Unha-3 rocket shortly after launch demonstrated. Second, there's the country's tendency to operate on the cheap. Shortly after the Unha-3's disastrous launch, it was revealed that the effort that went into the failed rocket largely consisted of getting it a new paint job from the failed rocket it launched in 2006. We also learned that the country spent a whopping $15 on its new government website. And all those demands for more government spending on a nutrition program for its people? Ignored. All things considered, 28-year-old Kim Jong-Un must be realizing governing a country isn't as easy as it seems. Smoke and mirrors will only get you so far.