Sunday, September 12, 2004


South Korea, U.S. Say Mass Explosion Likely Not Nuclear Test

The Washington Post has the goods-- story here (Behind annoying "free" registration wall. Jerks.)

Money graphs:

South Korean officials said on Sunday that a massive explosion generating a huge cloud of smoke on North Korea's northern border with China on Sept. 9 was an unspecified accident and apparently not a much-feared nuclear test.

"We are investigating the size and the reason of the accident but we do not believe North Korea conducted a nuclear test," Kim Jong Min, South Korean presidential spokesman said Sunday.

Details of the blast, which came as concerns were mounting in U.S. intelligence circles in recent weeks that North Korea was about to conduct a nuclear test, remained sketchy. But South Korean officials said they recorded none of the seismic activity that likely would have accompanied a nuclear test.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the explosion Thursday was not a nuclear test but that it was not known yet what caused it.

"There was no indication that was a nuclear event of any kind. Exactly what it was, we're not sure," Powell said on ABC's "This Week."

All good enough for me. Of course, what, precisely, did happen in North Korea is still in doubt.

The WaPo article highlights previous reports of an underground missile testing facility being near the location the blast; obviously, it's possible that the explosion is connected with that. Put enough rocket fuel and explosives in one location, and you can have yourself a real nice fireworks show honoring the Dear Leader.

The resulting plumes might even look like a giant mushroom cloud, at least from satellite. Probably not as big as the South Koreans report, but hey, eyewitnesses make mistakes, and have to reevaluate their reports based on newly-received evidence.

Just like bloggers, in fact-- like, ahem, yours truly.

Where do we go from here? Maybe it really was just a forest fire, or another train explosion, or actually nothing at all. Hopefully, we may find out more in a few days.

Then again, if the explosion was an accident connected to North Korea's nuclear and/or missile programs, with a little luck it might set the DPRK a ways back in their weapons development efforts. Then again, it might not-- the North Koreans love to disperse their programs everywhere around the country, so even if one "node" fails there may be another one ready to step in its place.

Given the likelihood, however, that any such missile development site would have expensive equipment-- and thus given North Korea's economics situation, irreplaceable equipment-- not to mention scientists and engineers trained in its use, North Korea might be unable to easily bounce back from a major setback in their program.

Or, they could be preparing their first nuclear test for Tuesday morning. Who really knows with North Korea?

I heard that it might be a North Korea version of a MOAB fuel air bomb. The radius and other aspects seem to fit. I would respect your opinion on this.

There may not be Nuke sized seismic activity, but I think some charts have shown some abnormal seismic events.

What do you think?

That's possible. A MOAB is technically not all that hard to build.

Of course, the exact recipe for the MOAB is unique-- the old Daisy Cutters used a slurry of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum, and some people suspect the GBU-43 (i.e., the MOAB) design relies on a greatly improved mixture, with ingredients I doubt the North Koreans are aware of.

The NK's already have fuel-air explosives-- while built on a completely different principle than a MOAB, it at least demonstrates Kim's fondness for things that make a really big boom.
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