Bill Gertz Reports U.S Intelligence Agencies Don't Believe Korean Blast Was Nuclear

According to Bill Gertz’ report in the Washington Times, statements from those in the U.S. intelligence community support those of others (see Kim’s earlier update post) who are not convinced the North Korean blast was nuclear.

U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that seismic readings show that the conventional high explosives used to create a chain reaction in a plutonium-based device went off, but that the blast’s readings were shy of a typical nuclear detonation.

“We’re still evaluating the data, and as more data comes in, we hope to develop a clearer picture,” said one official familiar with intelligence reports.

“There was a seismic event that registered about 4 on the Richter scale, but it still isn’t clear if it was a nuclear test. You can get that kind of seismic reading from high explosives.”

The underground explosion, which Pyongyang dubbed a historic nuclear test, is thought to have been the equivalent of several hundred tons of TNT, far short of the several thousand tons of TNT, or kilotons, that are signs of a nuclear blast, the official said.

The official said that so far, “it appears there was more fizz than pop.”

Update: Ed Morrisey has more and notes the way the Washington Post covered the story:

If this is accurate, Kim expected to get 20 times more energy released from the test than the result. That points to a failure, another embarassing flop that follows on the heels of the Taepodong-2 test in July that exploded seconds into its flight.

One interesting note: look where the Post places this story in tomorrow’s paper. Wouldn’t one expect the possible failure of the first nuclear test since 1998 to make the front page, especially considering the high profile the test got the day before?

Update II: Josh Manchester describes the strategy of “collapse brinkmanship.”

Update III: Marc Danziger suggests the Godfather strategy:

Simply put, we explain that in the event of a nuclear incident in the West that cannot be explicitly traced to a known source of nuclear weapons, we will immediately decapitate the regimes of Iran and North Korea, and destroy enough of their physical and nuclear infrastructure to make it very, very difficult for them to continue nuclear engineering, whether for peaceful or weapons purposes for a very long time. This would have to be both something supported by the president and overwhelmingly passed by Congress. We’d have to show some clarity and resolve throughout our political class.

The rationales for doing this are simple: Both regimes have cheated on their commitments around the nuclear product chain; both have and are supporting (or simply selling technology to) active terrorists; and neither regime has a government that’s actively suicidal.

It’s not a good defense, or a permanent one — it is as risky and overdone as a shotgun rigged to shoot a burglar. But it’s one way to set a bright line and to buy some time while we try and come up with a better plan.Update 1:30: There is a discussion on Fox News right now about these Alaskan villages saying “no” to the Chavez oil offer. One point made was that it is rare to see people act out of principle and put their money where their mouth is and make a real sacrifice. Ain’t that the truth?

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