Saturday, September 11, 2004

North Korea Nuclear Bomb Test?! (Updated)

UPDATE 9/12 10:06 am:Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated amid the conflicting reports that the North Korean "mushroom shaped cloud" blast that happened on Thursday was not a nuclear explosion. The blast, as stated last night, was big enough to be picked up on our satelites. Right now, it seems as if not many people know what caused the blast, with some speculating there was an accidental nuclear detonation or a forest fire (although, that seems doubtful).
Kim Jong-min, spokesman for the South Korean presidential office, said: "Currently, we are trying to find out in detail the exact character, cause and size of the accident, but we don't think North Korea conducted a nuclear test."

This is breaking news as it just broke over the wires...

According to Yahoo! News there are unconfirmed reports of a possible nuclear weapons test in North Korea.
A large explosion occurred in the northern part of North Korea (news - web sites), sending a huge mushroom cloud into the air on an important anniversary of the communist regime, a South Korean news agency reported Sunday.
I honestly don't know what to make of this. The article says that there is no indication that this is related to North Korea's nuclear program. Also, this reported happened on the 9th, two days ago, which is a lifetime on the Internet. If NoKo did conduct a test, why didn't they publicize it? And don't the US, China, and Japan all have satelites that can, you know, pick up this stuff?

Several things don't add up here, but we'll see where this goes tomorrow.

UPDATE 11:12 pm:The New York Times made it the front page story in Sundays paper. They have many more details:
[W]ASHINGTON, Sept. 11 - President Bush and his top advisers have received intelligence reports in recent days describing a confusing series of actions by North Korea that some experts believe could indicate the country is preparing to conduct its first test explosion of a nuclear weapon, according to senior officials with access to the intelligence.

While the indications were viewed as serious enough to warrant a warning to the White House, American intelligence agencies appear divided about the significance of the new North Korean actions, much as they were about the evidence concerning Iraq's alleged weapons stockpiles.
Ok, what the hell is going on here? AP and Reuters both have the same story about there being an unconfirmed reports of a "mushroom cloud" explosion. The Reuters story goes further
"There were rumors that the explosion was much bigger than the one at Ryongchon train station and the United States is showing a big interest as the blast was seen from satellites," Yonhap quoted an unnamed source in Beijing as saying.
There seem to be strong indicitions that a test has taken place, yet when you read the NYTimes piece no mention of a test of any kind. Indeed, the whole article is centered around the fact that there has been a series of moves that could be a prelude to a test.
One official with access to the intelligence called it "a series of indicators of increased activity that we believe would be associated with a test," saying that the "likelihood" of a North Korean test had risen significantly in just the past four weeks.

It was that changed assessment that led to the decision to give an update to President Bush, the officials said.

The activities included the movement of materials around several suspected test sites, including one near a location where intelligence agencies reported last year that conventional explosives were being tested that could compress a plutonium core and set off a nuclear explosion. But officials have not seen the classic indicators of preparations at a test site, in which cables are laid to measure an explosion in a deep test pit.
I'm stumped to explain these two completely different news items.