North Korean test

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

U.S. in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts are con­tin­u­ing to sift through seis­mic, elec­tronic and other in­tel­li­gence data gath­ered from around the world to de­ter­mine the size of the un­der­ground nu­clear blast car­ried out by North Korea on May 25 at the test fa­cil­ity near Kilju in the north­ern part of the coun­try.

Pre­lim­i­nary in­di­ca­tions show that Py­ongyang achieved a much larger blast than its first test in 2006, which was con­sid­ered par­tially suc­cess­ful be­cause it pro­duced an ex­plo­sion of about 0.5 kilo­tons.

Pre­lim­i­nary in­di­ca­tions are that the lat­est test pro­duced a yield of 4 kilo­tons to 5 kilo­tons, nearly 10 times big­ger than 2006. Fi­nal es­ti­mates are not ex­pected for sev­eral more days, said a U.S. of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with re­ports of the test. A kilo­ton is the equiv­a­lent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

The of­fi­cial chal­lenged the first non-North Korean re­port on the size of the blast that ap­peared in the Rus­sian press. That quoted De­fense Min­istry sources as stat­ing that the yield was be­tween 10 and 20 kilo­tons — or about the size of the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Ja­pan that ended World War II. “That’s a bit high,” the U.S. of­fi­cial said, adding that the fi­nal anal­y­sis is still un­der way.

The yield es­ti­mate is be­ing done on a crash ba­sis by spe­cial­ists at the En­ergy Depart­ment and its nu­clear lab­o­ra­to­ries, which are re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing for­eign nu­clear pro­grams. Other an­a­lysts in­volved are from the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Coun­cil, un­der Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Den­nis C. Blair, and an­a­lysts at the CIA, the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency and other agen­cies.

If the 4-to-5-kilo­ton yield is con­firmed, it is ex­pected to com­pli­cate ef­forts by the United States and other na­tions to deny North Korea the sta­tus it seeks as a de­clared nu­clear power.

The North Korean test comes as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­views pol­icy on how to deal with the reclu­sive regime in North Korea, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble plans for a new diplo­matic ini­tia­tive with Py­ongyang that would in­clude more di­rect, one-on-one ne­go­ti­a­tions as well as seek­ing to re­vive the stalled and now all­but-dead six-na­tion nu­clear talks.

It also is the first big test of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy on nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion, which is be­ing worked out among key for­eign-pol­icy and de­fense agen­cies.

Ob­servers say the ad­min­is­tra­tion is ex­pected to rely more on com­bined in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion of North Korea be­cause fur­ther sanc­tions on North Korea are not ex­pected to be backed by China and Rus­sia. porters May 20 that she is not aban­don­ing the idea of keep­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary the most pow­er­ful in the world, but she added the caveat that she fa­vors bal­anc­ing U.S. power with that of other na­tions.

Ms. Flournoy is lead­ing the lat­est four-year strate­gic as­sess­ment of U.S. forces, called the Qua­dren­nial De­fense Re­view (QDR), which is be­ing done on an ex­pe­dited ba­sis and will set the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion de­fense agenda by early next year.

Asked if U.S. su­per­power sta­tus should be pre­served or whether U.S. power should be bal­anced with that of other coun­tries such as Rus­sia, China and In­dia, Ms. Flournoy said: “I think the fact that Amer­ica’s po­si­tion in the world is fairly unique, it is a fact. But I think this ad­min­is­tra­tion, when you look at the full range of se­cu­rity chal­lenges we face — whether it’s ter­ror­ism, pro­lif­er­a­tion, eco­nomic se­cu­rity is­sues, cli­mate change, pick your chal­lenge — there’s not a sin­gle one that the United States alone can deal with ef­fec­tively.”

In­stead, “coali­tions and part­ners” are needed to deal with the chal­lenges, she said, adding that the U.S. is uniquely po­si­tioned to play a lead­er­ship role in al­liances and coali­tions for deal­ing with prob­lems.

“At the same time, I do think the world is be­com­ing a more mul­ti­po­lar place, and you have the rise of other pow­ers, and you have the rise of im­por­tant re­gional play­ers who will play lead- er­ship roles in their re­gions,” she said. “So what this is push­ing us to is, again, a more prag­matic strat­egy that’s fo­cused on build­ing part­ner­ships to deal with spe­cific chal­lenges around the world.”

Pressed on whether the United States should con­tinue to have the dom­i­nant mil­i­tary, Ms. Flournoy said that “as a na­tion with both a global in­ter­est and a global lead­er­ship role to play, yes, I do be­lieve that our mil­i­tary needs to re­main sec­ond to none. But what that means is chang­ing. This is why we’re con­duct­ing the QDR.”

Ms. Flournoy said the Pen­tagon is in the early stages of the re­view, based on fo­cus ar­eas and guid­ance from De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates. They in­clude three main ar­eas on how to im­prove ca­pa­bil­i­ties for wag­ing ir­reg­u­lar war­fare, coun­ter­ing arms pro­lif­er­a­tion and “deal­ing with high-end asym­met­ric threats,” a phrase a U.S. de­fense of­fi­cial has said is code for China. nents say the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion needs more vig­or­ous arm­scon­trol diplo­macy.

Air-power ad­vo­cates are call­ing on the Pen­tagon to chal­lenge the con­gres­sional ban on ex­port­ing the new F-22 fighter bomber to Ja­pan, some­thing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fused to do over con­cerns it would up­set China.

Riki El­li­son, chair­man and founder of the Mis­sile De­fense Ad­vo­cacy Al­liance, said the North Korean test along with re­cent medium-and long-range mis­sile tests shows the need to bol­ster U.S. mis­sile de­fenses.

Mr. El­li­son crit­i­cized the Pen­tagon’s planned cut of $1.2 bil­lion for mis­sile de­fenses and said plans to cap the cur­rent lon­grange in­ter­cep­tor force at 30 mis­siles were wrong. The planned re­duc­tion is “32 per­cent of what was re­quired six months ago [and] specif­i­cally lessens the pro­tec­tion of the United States’ pub­lic and home­land from a North Korea bal­lis­tic mis­sile with a nu­clear weapon, mak­ing our na­tion and peo­ple less safe,” he said.

Mr. El­li­son stated that Lt. Gen. Pa­trick J. O’Reilly, di­rec­tor of the Mis­sile De­fense Agency, told a House hear­ing last week that the threat from bal­lis­tic mis­siles has “in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly.”

Daryl G. Kimball, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion, said in a state­ment that the test “un­der­scores that cur­rent poli­cies de­signed to curb [North Korea’s] nu­clear-weapons pro­gram have failed to achieve their po­ten­tial and that a new and more en­er­getic diplo­matic ap­proach is needed, and fast.”

For­mer Am­bas­sador Robert Gal­lucci, also with the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion’s Board of Direc­tors, said the test showed that “a danger­ous sit­u­a­tion has been al­lowed to get worse.”

“It is es­sen­tial that top U.S. diplo­mats clar­ify Wash­ing­ton’s will­ing­ness to ne­go­ti­ate di­rectly with their North Korean coun­ter­parts in the con­text of the six- party process or other fora to im­ple­ment the Septem­ber 2005 Joint Frame­work Agree­ment for the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula,” Mr. Gal­lucci said, re­fer­ring to the six-na­tion doc­u­ment.

Fighter pi­lot and for­mer Pen­tagon of­fi­cial Ed­ward T. Tim­per­lake said the North Korean nu­clear test should trig­ger the im­me­di­ate sale to Ja­pan of the F22, the stealth fighter that is con­sid­ered the mil­i­tary’s top-of-the­line jet.

Mr. Tim­per­lake, un­til re­cently the di­rec­tor of tech­nol­ogy as­sess­ment for the Pen­tagon’s In­ter­na­tional Tech­nol­ogy Se­cu­rity direc­torate, said China’s sup­port for North Korea and its fail­ure to use oil sales to Py­ongyang for lever­age against the test raises ques­tions about the U.S. pol­icy of giv­ing Bei­jing the lead in nu­clear talks. He said China’s role with North Korea “is part of the prob­lem and not the so­lu­tion,” adding that the Chi­nese re­sponse to the test was “tepid.”

“The key to a free Pa­cific is Ja­pan, and it is a quiet but well­known fact they can start to build their own nuke de­ter­rence force al­most overnight if they wish,” Mr. Tim­per­lake said.

Sell­ing an ex­port ver­sion of the F-22 to Ja­pan “sends a very pow­er­ful sig­nal to all — China, North Korea and Ja­pan — that bad ac­tions can have real and di­rect U.S. con­se­quences.”

A state­ment quot­ing Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Yang Jiechi said that China “res­o­lutely op­posed” the test.

“The de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula, op­po­si­tion to nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of peace and sta­bil­ity in North­east Asia is the con­sis­tent and unswerv­ing stance of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment,” the state­ment said, ac­cord­ing to As­so­ci­ated Press.

Bill Gertz cov­ers na­tional se­cu­rity af­fairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at in­sid­e­ther ing@wash­ing­ton­


De­fense Un­der­sec­re­tar y for Pol­icy Michele A. Flournoy

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