Is North Korea Preparing Another Nuke Test?

A Fox News producer in South Korea says that South Korean officials have been noticing more unusual activity going on at the site where the nuclear test took place.

Here’s a report from Reuters.

SEOUL, Oct 9 (Reuters) – The chief of South Korea’s intelligence agency told lawmakers on Monday it was possible North Korea would carry out a second nuclear test, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency quoted one MP as saying.

The lawmaker also quoted Kim Seung-gyu, head of the National Intelligence Service, as telling a closed-door parliamentary committee meeting that unusual signs had been detected at a North Korean town in the afternoon.

North Korea announced earlier in the day it had successfully conducted an underground nuclear test.

Also, we are now just hearing on Fox that Russian officials are reporting that NoKo’s blast was equal to approximately 15,000 tons of TNT. The AP is reporting:

MOSCOW – Russia’s defense minister said Monday that North Korea’s nuclear test was equivalent to 5,000 tons to 15,000 tons of TNT.

That would be far greater than the force given by South Korea’s geological institute, which estimated it at just 550 tons of TNT.

By comparison the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima during World War II was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT.

Update: President Bush will comment on NoKo’s test at 9:45 am ET.

Update II: Captain Ed sees the Russian report as disinformation designed to benefit NoKo:

So why is Russia insisting on overstating Kim’s success? Other than sheer bloody-mindedness, it’s hard to say. If we take them at their word, then we’d have to insist that Russia join in sanctions immediately, which they have so far refused to do. They may want to make the argument that Kim has enough of a nuclear deterrent that we should leave him alone, but that won’t fly either.

The Russians may simply want to continue its game-playing against the West, but as I wrote earlier, the stakes are going to get very high for Vladimir Putin as well as Kim Jong-Il. If they want to bet the house on a pair of deuces, they had better prepare to lose everything.

Allahpundit is skeptical as well, but also comments that “logically it makes more sense for the U.S. and South Korea to want the underplay the success of the test than for the Russians to want to overplay it.” Allah also reminds us of Russia’s 50 megaton nuke test that registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale.

Think about this, too. The Soviet Union once tested a bomb with a 50-megaton yield. That’s equivalent to 50 million tons of conventional explosives. Supposedly that test generated a tremor of 7.0 on the Richter scale; would a test of 550 tons then generate a 4.2?

Good point.

Update III: The AFP via the Khaleej Times is also reporting of the possibility of another NoKo nuke test:

SEOUL – Unusual activities were detected in a rugged area in North Korea on Monday, causing South Korean authorities to suspect that the communist state might be preparing a second nuclear test, a news report said.

Kim Seung-Gyu, head of South Korea’s spy agency, told parliament that activity involving vehicles and some 30 to 40 people was under way at Punggyeri in the northeastern county of Kilju, Yonhap news agency reported.

“From three p.m. (06:00 GMT) today, there have been some unusual movements under way at Punggyeri where we had thought the first nuclear test would be carried out,” Kim was quoted as saying.

“We have been closely following developments there to find out whether North Korea is moving to conduct a series of tests as India and Pakistan did,” he said.

An unidentified lawmaker who serves on parliament’s intelligence committee quoted Kim as telling the committee that there is a “sufficient possibility” of the North carrying out further nuclear tests.

Pungg yeri is where vehicle movements and the unloading of large reels of cable were spotted by satellite images last month, prompting speculation that a nuclear test was being prepared.

Punggyeri is some 30 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Hwadaeri, where South Korean officials said Monday’s test appeared to have been carried out.

Kim was also quoted as saying that North Korea is believed to have stored up to 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of plutonium, enough to make as many as seven nuclear bombs.

“North Korea is believed to have stored some 30 to 40 kilograms of plutonium,” he was quoted as telling the intelligence committee.

Update IV: President Bush’s statement on NoKo’s nuke test:

The United States still trying to confirm NoKo’s claim. The claim alone is a serious threat to the rest of the world. The US condemns the provocative act.

“NoKo has defied the will of the international community and the international community will respond.” Bush spoke with China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan. Together they affirmed their commitment to a nuclear free Korea. They are committed to a response from the UN.

US committed to diplomacy. US will also “meet full range of our deterrent and security committments” for allies SK and Japan.

President Bush ended his statement saying the oppressed NoKo people deserve better.

Update V: Wizbang readers point out that the Richter scale is logarithmic, which means there’s about a 1000 times difference between NoKo’s 4.2 and Russia’s 7.0 readings on the Richter scale. In other words, it isn’t accurate to use the Richter scale reading for Russia’s nuclear test as a comparison for NoKo’s.

Update VI: John Bolton is commenting at UN now and he reminds us that today that the UN is electing the ambassador from South Korea as its secretary general. He says it’s an interesting juxtaposition, the differences between the two countries. One country is active in world activities in a positive fashion and the other only inflames world tensions.

Update VI: Ambassador Dennis Ross was just on Fox News saying that it appears that China is willing to go along with symbolic UN sanctions, which will do nothing to avert NoKo. We need real, meaningful UN action. Perhaps the new South Korean UN secretary general can add some teeth to the UNSC.

Update VII: Bad news for Bush? Normally a Bush supporter on terror, Tammy Bruce was on Fox saying this NoKo nuke test is a reminder that the Bush admin has failed on this issue since he’s been in office for six years and has done nothing to prevent NoKo’s new nuclear development.

Update VIII: Greg Tinti has video of President Bush’s statement.

Update IX: Right on time. Jay Footlik, former advisor to the Kerry/Edwards campaign, is on Fox saying that NoKo’s nuke test President Bush’s fault.

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  1. Henry October 9, 2006
  2. Peter F. October 9, 2006
  3. Ric Locke October 9, 2006
  4. ed October 10, 2006
  5. Lee October 10, 2006
  6. call2biz October 11, 2006