Skip to comments.France questions 'failed' Korean nuclear test
Posted on 10/11/2006 2:32:08 PM PDT by MadIvan
The French Defence Minister has cast doubts over the success of North Koreas claimed nuclear test, saying that it produced an explosion so small that if indeed it was nuclear, it had been a failure.
Michele Alliot-Marie said that although experts had not yet determined the precise cause of the explosion, French, American and other scientists had detected that it was of "relatively limited size."
"In any case, if this was a nuclear explosion, it would be a case of a failed explosion," she said.
Mme Alliot-Maries comments were the strongest yet from a senior Western policy-makers to suggest that the Korean test had been a failure, a theory which appears to be gaining credence.
But they contradicted the findings of Russian authorities, who have said that the blast had a destructive power of between 5,000-15,000 tons of TNT as much as the force of the Hiroshima bomb.
Xavier Clement of Frances Atomic Energy Commission said that he could not explain how the Russians had come up with such a figure. "Its a hypothesis, not shared by us and other countries who also possess this type of high-precision analysis," he said.
"If it turns out to have been a nuclear test, its clear that the weakness of the energy release corresponds to an explosion that fell short of what could have been expected.
"Whats important is to determine is whether this was chemical or nuclear. Its possible that we never will."
Nonetheless, uncertainty about the tests did little to ease tensions between Pyongyang and the international community, with North Korea today warning that increased pressure from the United States would be regarded as a "declaration of war" to which it would respond with physical measures.
Pyongyangs announcement echoed comments made earlier by Kim Yong Nam, the regime's second in charge, threatening that North Korea will carry out further nuclear tests if the US pursued a "hostile attitude".
"If the US keeps pestering us and increases pressure, we will regard as a declaration of war and will take a series of physical corresponding measures," North Koreas Foreign Ministry said in a statement the first official word from the regime since Monday's announcement of the test.
"We were compelled to prove that we have nuclear weapons to prevent the increasing threat of war by the US and protect our sovereignty and survival. We are ready for both dialogue and confrontation.
However, the statement added: "Even though we conducted the nuclear test because of the US, we still remain committed to realising the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiations."
Separately, Kim Yong Nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme Peoples Assembly and second only to Kim Jong Il, said in an interview that how North Korea acted would depend on Washington's response.
"The issue of future nuclear tests is linked to US policy toward our country," Mr Kim told Japan's Kyodo news agency today, when asked whether Pyongyang would conduct any more nuclear tests. "If the United States continues to take a hostile attitude and apply pressure on us in various forms, we will have no choice but to take physical steps to deal with that."
He also suggested that Pyongyang was ready to return to stalled six-party talks, if sanctions against the reclusive regime were lifted.
Japan today imposed its own fresh sanctions on North Korea, prohibiting ships from entering Japanese ports and imposing a total ban on imports from the impoverished nation. North Korean nationals are also prohibited from entering Japan, with limited exceptions, the Cabinet Office said in a statement.
Tokyo has already halted food aid and imposed limited financial sanctions on Pyongyang after it test-fired seven missiles into waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula in July.
"Japan is in gravest danger, if we consider that North Korea has advanced both its missile and nuclear capabilities," Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister, said after the decision was announced. "We cannot tolerate North Koreas actions if we are to protect Japanese lives and property. These measures were taken to protect the peace."
The UN Security Council is debating a draft resolution, put forward by the US, proposing a series of sanctions against Pyongyang. The proposals include stopping trade in any materials which could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction, cargo inspections for goods going in and out of the country, and, in a measure targeted at the country's tiny elite, a ban on luxury goods.
But although there is international agreement that Pyongyang needs to be punished for its actions, hopes for a tough, swift response have been stifled by the difficulty in finding consensus over exactly what that response should be.
As the US and Japan called for tough punishment, South Korea said it would not abandon its policy of engagement with its totalitarian neighbour. Leaders in Seoul appeared to have accepted that they will have to live with a nuclear North Korea at least until Washington can be persuaded to engage in direct talks with the isolated Stalinist state.
The Beijing Government described Pyongyangs actions as "brazen" and spoke of the "negative impact" the test had had on its relations with North Korea. But in New York, where the diplomatic aftershocks of the test are being negotiated, profound differences among the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council were becoming ever more apparent.
Chinas Ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, said that it supported punitive actions. But he said that these must be "constructive, appropriate but prudent". And China balked at the idea of giving any UN resolution teeth, a sign that it would not tolerate anything that would destabilise the region by toppling the North Korean Government, causing chaos on its doorstep and a likely refugee exodus.
China is Pyongyangs economic lifeline, providing up to 90 per cent of its oil and 80 per cent of consumer goods in a nation so poor that it cannot feed its 23 million people without foreign donations. Experts said that for sanctions to have a real effect, the key lay with Beijing and to what extent it was willing to squeeze its impoverished ally.
But diplomats have said that China opposed US plans for international inspections of all cargo going in an out of North Korea. Beijing also wants any sanctions focussed only on North Koreas nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, and does not want any reference to enforcement under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Russia broadly endorsed the Chinese position.
Even if Pyongyangs test was a failure, the countrys nuclear programme is unlikely to be derailed, and the explosion may even aid bomb makers looking to improve on their technique, experts warned.
Two main sources of scientific evidence are needed to confirm that a blast is nuclear. One is the shockwave sent back by ground detectors, and the other is fallout - radioactive particles or gases - that often escape from an underground test site, even if the tunnel or shaft is sealed tight.
But North Koreas blast was so tiny that the seismic wave is almost indistinguishable from routine subterranean background noise, according to experts. That means it will take a long time to root out any tell-tale spikes that could confirm the blast was nuclear, and not a stockpile of TNT blown up as a hoax.
Only Russia has described the blast as a full-fledged nuclear event, while the Norwegian institute of seismology Norsar described it as a "medium-sized bomb" measuring between one and 10 kilotonnes. Other national monitors have put it at even less than one kilotonne, with one figure as little as 200 tonnes.
Such low yields are in theory feasible with a nuclear warhead, but they are traditionally reserved for established members of the nuclear club, which have mastered arts of miniaturisation.
"The easiest size of weapon to build is 10 to 20 kilotonnes. Its harder to build one thats smaller, and its harder to build one thats larger," said James Acton of Vertic, an independent British watchdog that carries out research into the verification of international treaties.
"It seems to me technically unlikely and politically unlikely that North Korea would have tried to do anything other in its first test than in the 10-20 kilotonne range. If it was a nuclear test and the yield was less than a kilotonne, it seems to me the evidence is that this test was a fizzle; it was a partially unsuccessful test."
One theory among experts is that North Korea used plutonium rather than uranium to make its bomb, given the plutonium-making reactor and fuel rods known to be in its possession.
Uranium bombs are relatively easy to make while plutonium bombs are more complicated, entailing a small ball of plutonium that, like the centre of an onion, is swathed by conventional explosives.
These explosives compress the plutonium and fire a neutron into the mass to initiate a chain reaction. But the explosives must be "very, very carefully shaped," and the detonation must be precisely timed to ensure that the neutron is fired at the right time, said Mr Acton.
He added that whatever the case, North Koreas nuclear programme would not be fundamentally damaged by possible failure. "They will almost certainly have gained information from this test which will have enabled them to build a better weapon next time around," he said.
I have no more confidence in france then I do in North Korea.
Both lead by dirtbags without a clue. Both antiAmerican.
France, experts on small failed explosions.
France positioning to cast their veto if the UNSC actions have any hope of working. Damn them!
And trust me, if there's anyone who knows about military failures, it's the French.
Announcing the intention to detonate a nuclear device and then not succeeding in achieving more than a large conventional explosion, it seems to us, is the difference between rape and attempted rape. Both are heinous. One is just not a completed act.
On Wednesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry said, "If the U.S. keeps pestering us and increases pressure, we will regard it as a declaration of war and will take a series of physical corresponding measures," according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
If their test was not sucessful I am not surprised.
But that doesn't make me feel any safer about the regime either.
We should believe France's statement...
...for what other country has more experience in failure?
Gosh darn it, at first glance the headline looked like
'France questions failed KORAN nuclear test'...
=========== French missiles FIRST given to Iraq to be USED Against US and Coalition Heroes =========
French missiles found by the Poles, and to protect France, blown up.
Froggies said they did not say "2003". LOL. Decide for yourself.
Iraqi missiles given to, and now located in, Syria:
North Korea may have done the geopolitical equivalent of stuffing a rolled up sock in their underpants.
France is now asking NK for permission to retract the surrender they issued immediately after the explosion.
The more I hear about the NK nuke, the more I am convinced that all they did was surround a quantity of fissionable material with several tons of conventional explosives in hopes that it would work like the real thing. Maybe that's how their schools over there teach it.
You're right. We aren't gonna do anything about it so what difference does it make? We are going to beg a resolution from the UN and the Chicoms. It is disheartening.
Aha! So that's how they do it!