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Insert Team America Reference Here

Be not afraid, there's a non-political post in the offing too. :P Though I might not get to it tonight.

I'm curious why everybody is running about like headless chickens about North Korea's announced nuclear test. Considering the recorded magnitude of the earthquake that the underground blast caused, you're looking at an explosion in the kiloton range. As in, one kiloton. Maybe. Nor has there been any radiation detected yet, from what I can tell out of media reports. And yet, all the coverage I saw until today was going on the assumption that this was a successful nuclear test, despite the fact that it's really, really difficult to deliberately make a nuclear explosion that small.

The options for cause would seem to be either abject failure or deliberate fakery through conventional explosives (of which North Korea has ridiculous amounts). In either case, the reaction in the West would seem to be unjustified. Not that I'm at all an expert, but I'm honestly leaning towards "deliberate fakery", if only because of Kim's demonstrated tendency to sabre-rattle, whether or not he has anything to back it up with. He's on record as wanting to negotiate directly with the Americans, as opposed to the six-party talks that the Americans have insisted on pushing since Clinton left office (do not ask me why), and I can easily believe in him being inclined to escalate matters in hopes of dragging the US to the table.

-D.

Comments

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doctorcomputer
Oct. 11th, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
A reasonable point - this is the country, after all, that painted logs to look like cannons because they thought they could fool spy satellites.

If only there had been oil reserves in North Korea, Kim might've been deposed by a suspicious coup, assassination via exploding silver chopsticks, or a scripted US invasion of freedom years earlier. I guess no one wants anything NK has.
doctorcomputer
Oct. 11th, 2006 02:41 am (UTC)
...and as for your Team America reference, check out these groovin' tunes.

Dead smegging on, Trey and Matt were.
paleshadow
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think even that would have done anything. Crazy as Kim is, he's the only thing keeping any semblance of order in that madhouse of a country. America might want the regime changed in Pyongyang, but China doesn't, and hasn't since the Korean War.

Instability in North Korea makes China very, very nervous for reasons I outline in my reply to Andrew, and nobody else with the capacity to do so will want to piss off the Chinese by actually doing it.

-D.
rumor_esq
Oct. 11th, 2006 02:30 am (UTC)
Indeed, the most interesting thing about the past few days is not NK's possibly nuclear test but the world's reaction to it.
vlosk
Oct. 11th, 2006 03:32 pm (UTC)
I agree with that last statement - some very interesting international reaction.

Thanks for this post Cheebs - the scale of that 'test' changes a lot. For them to call it successful, and be that small... likely it was a hoax; remember that the 'states detonated a few hundred tonnes of TNT back during their initial A-Bomb and A-Bomb-damage-potential research.
paleshadow
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, nobody doubts they're pursuing nuclear weapons, and whichever this proves to be, it can serve as a stepping stone towards that goal. I argue that the international reaction to this event is going to be unduly urgent and ill-advised from our perspective.

-D.
celarus
Oct. 11th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC)
Hold on...
At this point, I'm leaning towards "deliberate fakery" as well, but I feel obliged to point out a couple things:

1) Russia's seismographs detected a blast of 5-15 kilotons (according to the article you linked).
2) CTV news reported last night that scientists from several countries are comparing and analyzing data, and that it may be several weeks before they are able to reach a definitive answer.

So was there really a nuclear test or were conventional explosives used to make it look like one? I guess we'll know in a couple weeks.

Thing is, it probably doesn't really matter. What matters is the reaction. At most, I think we'll see very limited sanctions imposed, since no way in hell is anyone willing to risk war over this. The U.S. will continue its futile whining about preventing NK from keeping it's (supposed) nukes, and that will be about it.
paleshadow
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Hold on...
Given that the USGS and the South Koreans are saying that the quake was too small to have been caused by a blast of 5-15 kT, I'm for now prepared to discount the Russian report until more conclusive data comes out.

That said, you're right. What matters is the reaction. I'm beginning to think it's in everybody's best interests to assume it actually _was_ a nuclear weapon (which is why everybody's jumped to that conclusion). North Korea gets to look big, the war hawks in the American and Japanese governments get a new threat on the horizon, and everybody else gets a new impetus to actually negotiate. And if it's a fake, then those beenfits accrue at no actual cost. Now if only everybody's interests coincided.

I read this morning that only the US and Japan were in favour of even threatening force - the other three countries involved (China, Russia, SK) favoured sanctions of some kind instead. I'm not sure what good that will do - you don't get much more isolated than North Korea already, and if the aid from China, the US, and SK got cut off, the country would collapse and make matters even worse. (refugee crisis in China and South Korea, rogue army commanders selling nuclear technology to the highest bidder, et cetera, et cetera.) So nobody is going to impose sanctions with any teeth to them.

Furthermore, the US was _never_ going to go to war to prevent NK from getting nuclear weapons - not before Iraq when the administration was blinded by ideology and Oedipal revenge fantasies, and especially not after Iraq when their capacity to do so is so severely compromised. This is what made their policy of refusing direct negotiations in favour of threats so ridiculous. If you're not going to use carrots and you're not going to use sticks, what's left?

-D.
rumor_esq
Oct. 11th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Hold on...
Part of the problem leading to overreaction on the diplomatic level is, I think, the impotence of everyone involved. No one is willing to actually bring military force to bear on NK, so everyone shouts a little too loudly at them.

Best icon ever, btw. :D
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