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North Korea Says It Has Conducted Nuclear Test 1623

ScentCone writes "North Korea says that it has conducted its first nuclear weapons test and 'brought happiness to its people.' Japan and China earlier issued an unusual joint statement saying that such a test would be 'unacceptable.' As of 11:10PM EST, the USGS says that it has not detected any unusual seismic activity on the Korean peninsula in the last 48 hours." From the article: "The North said last week it would conduct a test, sparking regional concern and frantic diplomatic efforts aimed at dissuading Pyongyang from such a move. North Korea has long claimed to have nuclear weapons, but had never before performed a known test to prove its arsenal. The nuclear test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) in Hwaderi near Kilju city, Yonhap reported, citing defense officials." Update: 10/09 05:50 GMT by J : The U.S. Geological Survey reports a 4.2 magnitude quake; South Korean news is reporting a 3.58 magnitude event; the White House apparently confirms a nuclear test.
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North Korea Says It Has Conducted Nuclear Test

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  • If this is true (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:29AM (#16360055)
    It scares the hell out of me.
    • Re:If this is true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dorfmann ( 1010467 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:44AM (#16360179)
      Nukes are the most useless weapon any country can have, simply because you can't use them. If North Korea nukes the South, the Americans will nuke North Korea; if the Americans nuke North Korea, the North Koreans will nuke the South. So both sides have to rely on their conventional armies, just like before.

      Not only that, the North Koreans have claimed to have nukes for ages now. This sort of publically-announced test is just an extremely expensive and technologically advanced version of chest-beating.

      HOWEVER, assuming you are American, if you (and a significant majority of your countrymen) allow this to scare you and both 1) reelect jingoist pro-war politicians, and 2) support launching a 'pre-emptive' war against North Korea, things will become very dreadful indeed for the Korean peninsula.

      As a wise man once said, 'the only thing to fear is fear itself'.
      • Re:If this is true (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lordofthechia ( 598872 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:01AM (#16360311)
        "Nukes are the most useless weapon any country can have"

        Nukes may be useless in that it's pointless to launch them (unless you do want to bring about the armageddon), but they do have a purpose. Being a nuclear power almost guarantees that your country won't get invaded. Nobody would risk you launching your nukes as a last ditch effort to "save" your country.

        Reason it's called a peacetime weapon.
        • Re:If this is true (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SEE ( 7681 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @03:17AM (#16361175) Homepage
          Being a nuclear power almost guarantees that your country won't get invaded.

          Having a defense guarantee from an allied nuclear power is considered to be similarly protective, as is having the capital of your nearest hostile neighbor under your guns.

          That is, North Korea doesn't need a deterrent against the U.S., because it has a defense guarantee from China and artillery in place plenty capable of pulverizing Seoul, able to inflict tens to hundreds of thousands of casualties. If North Korea is being rational, and is doing this to have deterrent to invasion, the country they're trying to deter from invading is China.

          On the other hand, they may not be trying to deter a Chinese invasion. They might be trying to deter, say, a U.S. defense of South Korea in case of a North Korean invasion. One way to do that is to say, to Japan, "You interfere, and we'll nuke Tokyo". That could quite well get the Japanese to deny the U.S. use of Okinawa, which would logistically cripple any U.S. military response. While NK might not have the ability to hit the U.S. with a nuke at this time, they certainly could hit Japan with one (if the missile doesn't blow up in flight).
          • Re:If this is true (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:11AM (#16361471) Homepage Journal
            North Korea doesn't need a deterrent because the US won't invade unless North Korea crosses the border first. The US has seen significantly more hawkish characters than Bush and Rumsfeld on the topic of Korea. No one wants to fight there. It's horrendously mountainous, the winters are bitter cold, and the elite corps that would be handling any nuclear weapons are bound to be even more fanatical than the best of the Iraqi Republican Guard.

            That said, the descriptions from the Russians about North Korea's bomb place it at 3m in length and weighing about four tons, which is far more than any North Korean missile can mount and more than most of their planes can handle. There is zero chance of North Korea mounting nuclear missile attack in the next few years, and they would have to learn some very powerful miniaturization tricks before they could threaten anyone at a significant range.
      • by sanman2 ( 928866 )
        Hey, if there's anybody that would risk using nukes, it's that pudgy little nutcase, Kim Jong-ILL.

        He's FatMan and LittleBoy all rolled into one.

        A detached nutbag like him who's willing to let his people starve by the millions in famine, has no concerns about his people being hurt in a nukewar while he hides in some secret bomb shelter miles underground.
        • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @03:00AM (#16361093) Journal
          Before you condemn other countries for their lack of assistance to the poor, I suggest you look at your own country first. The US has a fairly high rate of poverty [] and starvation itself. The richest country in the world has over 10% of its population not able to meet basic needs, I consider that much more egregious.

          The US government also has no real concerns about the American people being hurt in a nuclear war, but there are contingency plans and entire complexes dedicated to letting the president hide miles underground in such an instance.

          Don't condemn other countries for living up to the ideals put forth by those who claim to be the model for the rest of the world.
          • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:24AM (#16362293) Homepage
            Oh, please, not that statistical trick again. Poverty in the west is defined as earning less than half the average income. If everyone's wealth doubles, the poverty rate actually stays the same. Poverty in the west means "only one TV and game console, only one car, no air conditioning and perhaps skipping a warm meal once or twice a week" for the majority of "poor" people. In North Korea it often means "find edible plants and drink from puddles".

            That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to integrate our poor into society in efficient ways. The basic needs 10% of the US apparently don't meet, would be considered luxury in the majority of the world.
          • by Wylfing ( 144940 ) <brian&wylfing,net> on Monday October 09, 2006 @09:03AM (#16363019) Homepage Journal

            Dear Lord, my bullshit detector just pegged. Please note: I am rather a lefty and in favor of social programs to help those who are poor or otherwise disadvantaged.

            The US has a fairly high rate of poverty and starvation

            That "poverty level" is by U.S. standards, which means USD 4700 per person per year. That seems pretty low, but consider that most of the world is at approximately USD 700 per person per year. So our "poor" are nearly 7 times better off than the average person around the world. Also, starvation is virtually impossible in the U.S., even for homeless people. In fact, the very poor are one of the most likely groups in the U.S. to be grossly overweight.

            The richest country in the world has over 10% of its population not able to meet basic needs

            This is predicated on your phony insinuation about poverty in the United States. Below the poverty line it is possible in many parts of the country to not only meet basic needs but to have comforts that are totally unknown in most of the world. Hell, our market basket [] includes things like beer, tobacco, computers, TV, jewelry, and sports equipment.

            I know it's superfashionable to bash the U.S. at every opportunity, and frankly it is embarrassing that we have a problem with health care in this country (but that spans the middle class as well, so it's not a poverty issue), but at least pick on the problems we actually have rather than make up new ones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by supabeast! ( 84658 )
        "Nukes are the most useless weapon any country can have, simply because you can't use them."

        That's not really true-nukes make a great deterrent against attacks and developing them has great propagandist value. Beyond that, you base your statement on the premise that the weapons are useless because launching one nuke leads to nuclear warfare, in which no one wins. The problem is that not all nations have leaders who are even remotely sane, and Kim Jong Il is probably the craziest world leader to come along,
      • Re:If this is true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Flwyd ( 607088 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:33AM (#16360589) Homepage
        Understanding the MADness of Mutually Assured Destruction requires a bit of mental gymnastics.

        Thinking with MADness, it's in North Korea's interest to convince the world that it has nukes. Without nukes, they have no feasible deterrent against an army of superior strength (U.S., China, etc.).

        When dealing with nuclear weapons, safe is better than sorry, so when someone announces "We have nuclear weapons," one should act as if they did. However, repeated claims without evidence can lead others to think the claimant is bluffing. The next step is therefore to perform a nuclear test, proving "Yes, I am a skunk, and yes, my glands are charged." It's no coincidence that India and Pakistan conducted their first nuclear tests within about a month of each other. It's a high stakes, high tech, high investment Mexican standoff.

        So in one sense, "nukes are the most useless weapon" because they take an enormous amount of resources for a handfull of bombs the owners hope to never use. On the other hand, building a single nuclear bomb can be a lot more cost effective than establishing a large enough army to deter one's enemies.

        It does not make me comfortable to know that people like Kim Jong Il and George W. Bush are in charge of weapons of mass destruction. As Robert McNamara revealed in The Fog of War [], the fate of the world could rest on having inaccurate information.

        The technology problem has been solved. Now it becomes a political and psychological problem. To see how small things can lead to big problems, watch Dr. Strangelove [], perhaps the only movie I think everyone should watch.
    • Re:If this is true (Score:4, Interesting)

      by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <> on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:12AM (#16361475) Homepage
      It sure as heck should be scared! If you haven't read this yet, you gotta check it out:

     /opinion/2006/04/16/do1609.xml []

      The other really scare force in the world is well documented here:

     s []

      Be afraid. Be very afraid.
      • Re:If this is true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:59AM (#16362519) Homepage
        Be afraid. Be very afraid.


        I will accept that it's virtually impossible to eradicate rogue states, terrorism and nuclear proliferation. It's definitely a huge (and increasingly difficult) challenge to come up with geopolitical policies that will improve the security and welfare of the world and it's also a huge challenge to find politicians (of either side, party or flavour) who manage.

        But I refuse to be afraid. What's the point.. I'd rather be ready.
  • Confirmed (Score:5, Informative)

    by sholde4 ( 815798 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:33AM (#16360081)
    According to MSNBC, USGS has just confirmed a 4.2 magnitude tremor at 10:30 am local time Monday.
  • Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:33AM (#16360083) Homepage Journal
    The reason there was no sizable seismic activity is because it was a test, they only split one atom this time. But NEXT TIME!! You just wait and see!
  • by EvilFrog ( 559066 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:33AM (#16360085)
    Just making sure, the Korean words for "happiness" and "severe radiation poisoning" aren't similar, are they?
  • Sizemography (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:33AM (#16360087)
    At this moment, US intel claims it "can't confirm" the event. However, US geologists apparently can. [] Transparency is a good thing, especially when it's not intended.

    • Re:Sizemography (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:43AM (#16360647) Homepage Journal
      The US has or had satellites that can detect particle bursts from nuclear explosions. If such satellites are still in operation (though likely any current ones are generations improved from the originals), then the US intelligence system would know for certain.

      As an aside, that type of satellite was the type that originally detected gamma ray bursts from billions of years ago and they were almost a total mystery until the last decade.
  • by quax ( 19371 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:33AM (#16360089)
    ... did North Korea get its hands on Saddam's missing WMDs?
    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:58AM (#16360299) Journal
      Well... first Saddam shipped them to Syria

      [Insert "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego" theme song] []


      [Insert "Family Circus" map] []


      And that's how they got to North Korea

  • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:34AM (#16360095)
    I guess we won't be invading North Korea anytime soon. If this is true, Pyongyang might be a psychotic dictator leading his country into chaos (sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it?), but he's smart enough to know how to keep the U.S. of his back.

    It's tough to be scared of your crazy neighbors when there's a crazy man in your own household.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eric2hill ( 33085 )
      No, the US can't move because the world already thinks we should keep our fucking nose out of other people's business. The only way the US is going to do anything millitarily in the next decade or two is at the behest of the UN. The people in the UN are pretty much impotent (see Darfur []) so basically we're going to clean up as best we can in Iraq and go back into a cold war status just bitching about others.

      The only way the citizens of the US will support a unilateral decision to invade another country is
    • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:18AM (#16360461) Homepage Journal
      We weren't going to be invading North Korea even before they had nuclear weapons. The reason is that half of South Korea's population as well as their political, economic, and cultural capitol is well within the range of North Korea's (relatively crude) artillery. Kim Jong Il has threatened to turn Seoul into "a sea of flames" and he can do it without nukes. There is no way that the US or anyone would be crazy enough to attack North Korea.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:35AM (#16360111)
    USGS and other international players are now reporting 4.2 magnitude (Richter scale) tremor at the indicated time of the test. China says they got a 20-minute warning, which they passed along to the US and other western governments.

    Looks like it will be a busy day in diplo-land, and a noisy day in pundit-land.
  • Walmart (Score:5, Funny)

    by stinkydog ( 191778 ) <sd AT strangedog DOT net> on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:35AM (#16360113) Homepage
    Time to head to the 24 hour Walmart and stock up on ammo and bottled water. I think I hear the 4 horsemen of the apocolypse mounting up. I'll keep the mutants off my land.

    • While filling your cart with 7.62mm rounds and Evian, you may want to consider some Potassium iodide [], which can provide at least some protection against Radioiodine, which I assume would be a part of most nuclear explosions (although I am no specialist on this matter - do correct me if I'm wrong). It's dirt cheap, and a little something might be better than nothing. The odds of ever needing it are, of course, extremely low. But, hey, if you're going to stock up, stock up right.
  • by sokoban ( 142301 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:44AM (#16360169) Homepage
    ... to welcome our new North Korean overlords.
  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot@ d e f o r e s t .org> on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:51AM (#16360237)
    Seismic results can be faked with conventional explosives -- 30,000 tons of TNT is expensive but can be amassed even by a small nation like North Korea.

    However, the world's most sensitive neutrino detector (Kamiokande) is under 1,000 km away. If the North Koreans detonated a 10-30 kiloton device, several times 1013 neutrinos from it should have passed through Kamiokande. I don't know Kamiokande's exact quantum efficiency, but it should be able to detect a pulse like that. After all, it detected Supernova 1987-A...
  • by Toxicgonzo ( 904975 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:52AM (#16360257)
    At least they're not building Battlecruisers.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:05AM (#16360351) Journal

    The other day I read a story where they interviewed a Chinese soldier who was disgusted with the NKs. Why? Because they returned a border crosser, a young woman. This took place on a bridge over a river that divides China and NK. As soon as she was signed over, the NKs took a sharp steel wire and ran it through the flesh between the thumb and forefingers of a hand. They led her away screaming. Apparently, this is routine behavior. Other Chinese border guards related stories of NKs running the wire underneath the collarbones of returnees, harnessing them together. Needless to say, these people are not seen at the border again.

    In the same article, there were stories of NKs sneaking into China, robbing banks, in general making trouble. However, most of the border crossers are coming to China to find prosperity and freedom. Yes. Prosperity and freedom. In a country that we usually associate with wage slavery and oppression. The woman at the bridge knew she would be killed. They must all realize they will be killed, yet they risk being returned. Now that has *got* to be one lousy place to live.

    I don't see how the NK regime can last. It's just a question of how it's going to go down. If I were the premier of China, I'd make a secret deal with SK to put a military sqeeeze on the place, since NK would probably be overwhelmed by a Chinese invasion. The Chinese could really come out looking like good guys if they then turned it over to SK for re-unification ala Germany. I'm not that optimistic though. I think we're more likely to see the "Korean autonomous zone" or some such nonsense that's really part of the Chinese empire. Maybe real soon now.

    • by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:01AM (#16360765)
      North Korea is armed to the teeth with chemical weapons. Any invasion into North Korea is a quick way to turn all the cities within artillery range of North Korea into dead zones. North Korea also has a vast array of short and mid range missiles that will also certainly hit your capital and any major city. In the first hour of any North Korean war, sure as shit, Seoul will be wiped out and Tokyo will be short a few million people.

      China wants a North Korea it can control. China doesn't mind North Korea being a pain in the ass for the US and Japan from time to time. What China does mind is a nuclear/chemical/biological war in its back yard, and it minds a few million starving North Koreans throwing themselves at the border trying to escape. China wants a stable North Korea that occasionally acts up.

      That said, what North Korea is doing is NOT what China wants. China is probably going to respond, but no one is going to take military action. Military action is not going to bring down North Korea unless a North Korean leader goes (more) insane and starts something. Otherwise, North Korea is going to collapse in an internal military coup. The only thing the rest of the world can do until that day is keep North Korea from making any trouble until then... which is exactly what everyone is trying to do.
      • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:30AM (#16360929)
        North Korea is going to collapse in an internal military coup.

        Well, a coup of some sort. Chances are, China will be a major backer of any such event too.

        From the analyses I've been reading, it is likely that this nuke test was a military coup of sorts, as was the missile test a few months ago. The military is the largest power structure in the DPRK and shooting off their weapons as a show of strength against the perceived threats of just about every other country is a big goal of theirs, big enough to override the concerns of the rest of the government regarding sustainability (foreign aid has dried up to a trickle in the last few years, and their recent efforts at counterfeiting US dollars have not gone over so well either).

        Despite the typical demonization of western media, 'dear leader' Kim certainly understands that these tests are not likely to improve relations with any other country and are not in the best interest of maintaining his dictatorship and his role has chief party animal. So in that sense at least, the fact that the tests have occurred suggests that his grip on control of the country is not iron-clad.
    • by sheepathon ( 1011045 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:46AM (#16361023)
      Every country officially says they are in favor of reunification, but in reality: South Korea doesn't want reunification because obviously their government would become the legitimate one and have to foot the bill. This would likely bankrupt SK and lead to a depression in the area that would be felt all over international markets. Not to mention most South Koreans are quite racist (no offense, it's just how it is), even towards their Northern brethren. Think of it like...the way educated Americans see rednecks who paint confederate flags on their cars and think the South won the Civil War. Japan doesn't want reunification because the SK govt (well, just the Korean govt, since we're talking about reunification) would now have nuke tech in their hands. This will make Japan nervous, seeing as they don't have nuclear weapons and having their Korean neighbors next door in possession of nukes is a bit unsettling. China doesn't want reunification because then US troops would have free access to more than just the 38th parallel - they could wander about the Yalu river (right on China's border with NK). The United States doesn't want reunification because of the insane hit to the SK economy that will accompany reunification, and a few other reasons I can't recall...I studied this in a class a couple of years ago so I need to go dig up my notes. But the official stance of all the countries is that they support the reunification of these divided Korean peoples...heh.
  • Contrary to North Korean propaganda, North Korea having nukes has more to do with Russia, Japan, China, and South Korea than it does with the United States. Northeast Asia is currently the most economically dynamic area of the world. And yet, in the center of this region sits a basket case. A country in a cult of personality throwback to the early 1950s, still fighting the Korean War.

    While China continues its relentless march to economic modernity and eventual superiority, while South Korea has the most advanced internet culture in the world (see recent slashdot story still on the front page from the New York Times), and while Japan is pretty much the most advanced nation on the planet, according to a number of measures (GNP, life expectancy, etc), North Korea keeps its citizens in prisoner camps, rummaging for leaves to eat, while it focuses every ounce of its words to the world and every drop of its resources on military belligerence. And counterfeiting currency. And making methamphetamine. And now nukes.

    North Korea can easily kill a quarter million people in Seoul anytime it wanted to with conventional weapons in a couple of hours. Its rockets could carry a number of nasty things to Tokyo very easily. And now nukes.

    I really don't see North Korea's neighbors tolerating this scenario much longer. I don't see how they can. China has been reluctant to muzzle its maddog little psycho neighbor since it frightens the hated Japanese more than anyone else, but surely China can see now how North Korea's insane belligerence threatens China's economy just as much as it gives the Japanese nightmares. And North Korea, famously, when presented a line in the sand, does all it can do to cross it. But going nuclear may be a line in the sand it should not have crossed, if self-preservation was ever its goal. But self-preservation never seems to have been North Korea's goal. More like a headlong rush into self-realized armageddon.

    I don't see this ending well, I really don't. Don't go to Seoul or Tokyo for awhile folks, I'm really worried about Northeast Asia right now, I don't see this ending well. North Korea has too much of a deathwish. And now nukes.

  • by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:28AM (#16360531)
    Not many Presidents can boast of being asleep at the wheel while another nuclear power was born. They aren't a big threat to the US but what do we do if they invade the south? We'd have two choices, let them or risk a nuclear war. Anyone that still thinks the middle east wasn't about oil is delusional. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction yet we knew N Korean was capible of making them. Bush threw everything we had at Iraq and ignored N Korean. Do the math and you come up with controling oil supplies and prices. The ones at risk right now are the Japanese and they may have to build a bomb out of self preservation. This just became Bush's biggest disaster and that's saying a lot. Hey at least gays can't marry so we got the important stuff done! Nice to see we have priorities in the US.
  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:04AM (#16360789)
    It's not a nuke.

    Compare the purported "nukular test": ata/INCN_24hr.html []

    Notice how long this lasts.

    To a _real_ nuclear test []

    Again, notice how long this lasts. Hint: look at the scale of both graphs.

    One of these things is not like the other.

    I'm sure that you can figure it out for yourself.

    • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @05:38AM (#16361801)
      The Russian defence ministry has confirmed it as a nuclear detonation:
      "Russia's defence ministry said it was "100% certain" that an underground nuclear explosion had taken place, ITAR-Tass news agency reported"

      Until other nuclear experts tell me otherwise, I'll believe their conclusion rather than your explanation. As a complete layman it is not impossible for me to think that the time scale can depend on lots of things, including type of rock surrounding the underground explosion, how far underground it was, etc.
  • by spacefight ( 577141 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:22AM (#16361515)
    ... we've been frew this a dozen times....

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan