North Korea Nuke Test for Iran?
Image Credit: Flickr / mroach

North Korea Nuke Test for Iran?

0 Likes
13 comments

North Korea may have secretly detonated two nuclear devices made with highly enriched uranium in 2010, with one or both of the test blasts possibly being undertaken on behalf of Iran, according to a report highlighted in a daily security briefing I received from Congressional Quarterly.

The original source for the CQ briefing is Austrian newspaper Wiener Zietung, which appears to be elaborating on a story that appeared Sunday in German paper Die Welt that it claims was based on “Western intelligence sources.” The Die Welt piece, meanwhile, noted evidence of the alleged 2010 nuclear tests was published last month in Nature.

Confused yet?

The Nature article is actually very interesting, coming from Swedish nuclear physicist Lars-Erik de Geer, research director for the Defense Research Agency in Stockholm. He’s said to have analyzed data “showing the presence of radioisotopes that betrayed a uranium bomb explosion.”

“After a year of work, (he) concluded that North Korea carried out two small nuclear tests in April and May 2010 that caused explosions in the range of 50 to 200 tons of TNT equivalent,” the report said. “The types and ratios of isotopes detected…suggest that North Korea was testing materials and techniques intended to boost the yield of its weapons.”

De Geer’s full, peer-reviewed findings are going to be published in the April/May issue of Princeton University journal Science and Global Security. And although some nuclear weapons experts have expressed skepticism, as the New York Times noted last month, North Korea may have a history of making absurd claims (including mountains making noises on the Dear Leader’s birthday), but “outsiders also have repeatedly underestimated the capabilities of Korean scientists.”

“Similar skepticism was voiced over North Korea’s claim to have mastered uranium-enrichment technology — until it unveiled an advanced, industrial-scale enrichment facility to no less than Siegfried S. Hecker, a former head of the United States’ Los Alamos National Laboratory,” it argued.

And lest anyone jump to the conclusion that “Western intelligence sources” are suddenly briefing the media to lay the groundwork for an attack on Iran, it should be noted that this isn’t the first time North Korea and Iran have been linked over their weapons ambitions.

Last year, a U.N. report suggested North Korea and Iran seemed to have been regularly exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air,” the report said. “For the shipment of cargo, like arms and related materiel, whose illicit nature would become apparent on any cursory physical inspection, (North) Korea seems to prefer chartered cargo flights.”

The big question is whether, if firm nuclear test link is found between Iran and North Korea, it will that be enough to push Israel to take military action.

Comments
13
Mark B.
March 12, 2012 at 16:29

Jay, lest you forget. Biological and chemical weapons are considered to be WMD’s. Saddam Hussein was known to have used them on his own people. He had them – we just MAY not have found them – and then again we may have found them and kept that secret.

Adam Cathcart
March 12, 2012 at 05:07

Wiener Zeitung is not the “source” for anything, and the research profiled in the Nature article does not so much as mention Iran in its conclusions or data.

The origin of the rumor (and it is surprising that CQ would not investigate further) is an op-ed in Die Welt am Sonntag in Berlin by Hans Ruhle, a former West German defense official who has not been active in government since 1988.

The question of a North Korean nuclear test in April/May 2010 _has_ been reopened, but the Iran connection is complete speculation.

For analysis of the actual documents at play, please see:

Stephan Haggard: http://www.piie.com/blogs/nk/?p=5366

Juan Cole: http://www.juancole.com/2012/03/the-n-korea-iran-nuclear-connection-fraud.html

SinoNK: http://sinonk.com/2012/03/05/what-next-for-the-dprk-fusion-claim/

and: http://sinonk.com/2012/03/04/information-fallout-tracing-implications-that-north-korea-tested-nuclear-weapons-for-iran/

Mayan John
March 10, 2012 at 22:43

Remember the Mayan Prediction…..2012, the END OF THE WORLD!
An anxious Israel,a bankrupted USA hoping to mask its economic woes and an Iran having big hope to rise to big power status and a penniless West, all boil down to a big, bad mix.
Will it be THE END OF THE WORLD FOR 2012?

Chris I
March 10, 2012 at 21:21

Actually, far from providing a cassius belli for a strike on Iran, this report (a rather alarming but dubious one) underlines the possibility of strikes being a VERY risky idea… perhaps even a catestrophic miscalculation. Sanctions too for that matter. There is a remote… but not impossible… chance that Iran has a few nuclear devices already. But that alarming possibility is very remote indeed. It should be noted that many military strategist have thought that a nuclear war might be triggered by a basic miscalculation regarding the capabilities of a new (or potential) nuclear power. Dangerous stuff.

Steven
March 10, 2012 at 01:15

Well Jay,
There is a difference between Iraq’s suspected WMDs, and all the well documented information about what Iran has been up to for quite some time. Why build facilities under 250 of granite if you have nothing to hide (and protect)? Why not let in the IAEA inspectors if you have nothing to hide? They are allowed in the US, Russia, etc. Iran signed the non-proliferation treaty, so if they aren’t breaking it, why won’t they prove it? When has anything Iran has said or done since their Revolution been benign toward any person or country that isn’t Muslim. Even being a Muslim country doesn’t necessarily take you out of their cross-hairs.

Jay
March 9, 2012 at 21:14

Hey lets invade Iran like we did in Iraq for having WMD’s. Oh wait? We invaded Iraq for WMD’s right?

applesauce
March 9, 2012 at 18:09

what you are essentially saying is, that if the test had happen the reason we as the public don’t know is because the government, who has the ability to detect it will not tell us?

i see your reasoning however i still hold reserves about this so called secret tests. just because some group claims it doesn’t make it true, further more some out went even further and claims its possibly for iran. this article mentions the skeptics, you can count me among them.

applesauce
March 9, 2012 at 18:04

i see, my mistake, but 50 tons…? that must be a failed test(if it happened) or somehow they have obtained very advanced warhead designs that no one outside of the P-5 has(well maybe Israel too)

Dave
March 9, 2012 at 16:23

Oh, so now it’s Iran’s fault that NK is testing nukes? Wasn’t Iran also responsible for the bad weather this week? Keep that propaganda machine rolling, rolling, rolling..

JM
March 9, 2012 at 15:50

It says tons not kilotons.

Thomas
March 9, 2012 at 14:58

Good inovative idea to legitimate the invasion of Iran, we need to know that Western domination is comming to an end and forget about force and try to live peacefully otherwise WW3 will bring West to its knee.

JohnX
March 9, 2012 at 06:00

Western Intelligence Organisations knowing and publishing are two different issues.

They may have known, they may just not have published the info to the world.

In 1995, there was an article in the newspaper about how the British Government was saying that they may need to look at changing the screcy laws as the 50 yr secrecy laws meant that secrets were coming out from people who were still alive that maybe were still controversial.

The book ‘operation JB’ was published about that time and if the person writing it is legit, then that is one secret they may have wanted to keep quiet. So the fact is that they may have known about it and wanted to keep it a secret as its not in thier best interests.

So its best to not assume that they didn’t know or that it cant be real as they must have known and subsequently published the information if it was real.

applesauce
March 9, 2012 at 04:01

uhhh, im pretty sure nk is one of the more watched places on the planet(by satellites and such)i would say its just about impossible for nk to have detonated 2 nuclear bomb in the 50 to 200 kiloton range without the us(or sk or japan) intelligence knowing, everything from radiation(consider we can measure radiation effect from japan using a monitor in California) to seismic waves would easily betray any test, not like nk is in the middle of nowhere and its got densely populated countries surrounding it that are highly interested in any such test.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
required
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment
required

Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief