North Korea Warns: Bigger Tests, Missile Launch
As a North Korean diplomat from their Beijing embassy said that the communist dictatorship could set off a bigger test as well as take “additional measures,” China’s United Nations ambassador said, “I think that there has to be some punitive actions. We need to have a firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response.” Ambassador Wang Guangya did not elaborate on the American sanctions proposals delivered to the UN Security Council earlier in the day, which included a ban on all trade involving dual-use technology and cargo inspections on all shipments to and from North Korea – effectively an air and naval blockade.
But the North Korean intransigence continued apace, with the war of words targeting the United States, whose sanctions it wants to end and whose aid it seeks to coerce. To that end, the North Korean embassy official in Beijing said to a South Korean newspaper, “We hope the situation will be settled before an unhappy incident of us firing a nuclear missile occurs. It all depends on how the United States reacts.”
Dismissing such attempts to intimidate a favorable outcome, American ambassador to the UN John Bolton said, “This is the way North Korea typically negotiates, by threat and intimidation. It has worked for them before. It won’t work for them now.” With China, North Korea’s only ally, taking such a hard-line position against them on the issue, a nuclear missile launch may be the only way to change the dynamic, a change that would decidedly not be advantageous for Pyongyang. While the extent China is willing to support “some punitive actions” remains to be seen, that it cancelled leave for its troops on the North Korean border may be a sign of resolution.
In a sign of regional jitters, a Japanese broadcast mistook an earthquake off the Tokyo shore as a 2nd nuclear test. But there has yet to be a definitive analysis of the first test’s material effect. The unknowns have left speculation that has ranged from a fake test using military high explosive to a failed device that did not reach nuclear fission. Also considered has been the most unlikely of scenarios in which the test was of a miniaturized plutonium device, such as a ‘suitcase nuke.’ But considering the technology required for a miniaturized warhead within the context of no previous nuclear bomb tests, it is a highly unlikely scenario.
Curiously, Russia’s estimation of the blast level is far outside the scope of all other analyses, with an estimate of a 5-15 kiloton blast compared to most other estimates that peak at about 1.5 kilotons. The United States estimates the Monday test at between 0.5 and 1 kiloton and questions whether it was nuclear in nature.
America’s one remaining WC-135 Constant Phoenix atmospheric collection aircraft has been deployed to take particle samples in search of atomic evidence. While acknowledging that there has been no atomic detection to date since the blast, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Moscow was absolutely certain of the blast’s nuclear nature and size but offered no details as to how this conclusion was reached. “We have our secret methods, but I will not discuss them,” Ivanov said without elaboration.