NorK Nukes, the Next Day

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Oct 09, 2006 11:21 AM


Late last night, the Russians put their estimate of the Kim Jong's big boom considerably higher than the S. Koreans' estimate of 500 tons of TNT:

Russia's defence minister said Monday that the power of North Korea's nuclear blast was equivalent to 5,000 to 15,000 tons of TNT — several times greater than a South Korean estimate.

Sergei Ivanov said Russian Defence Ministry systems detected an underground nuclear explosion in North Korea.

"The force of the test explosion of the Korean nuclear weapon is in the range of five to 15 kilotons," Ivanov said in televised comments. A kiloton is 1,000 tons.

The high side of the Russian estimate would make the North Korean test blast comparable to the strength of the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in the Second World War.

President Bush addressed the situation this morning. Here's the transcript and video

Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond. 

This was confirmed this morning in conversations I had with leaders of China, and South Korea, Russia, and Japan. We reaffirmed our commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, and all of us agreed that the proclaimed actions taken by North Korea are unacceptable and deserve an immediate response by the United Nations Security Council.

He's not the only one who saw promising signs from historically NorK coddling China and Russia, and S. Korea to some extent. John Bolton talked with the members of the UN Security Council this morning and was encouraged by their apparent willingness to go with a Chapter 7 resolution. I can't find a story on his statement, but I'll keep looking.

Josh Manchester, who I spoke on a panel with this weekend, is great on foreign policy issues, and he had an at TCS Daily last week on the N. Korean threat. It's worth a read for some catch-up on what brought us here. Check his blog for more reaction, post-nuke test.

Michelle Malkin has a lovely, good-morning picture up entitled, "We are in range." 

Since I handed that to you, here are some more encouraging words from John at Op-For:

He wanted to know, "doesn't this freak you out?' Not really. Our missiles work. Theirs don't. 

This and other factors are chipping away at the nuclear taboo in Japan. I think it was John who said last night, "let the arms race begin." 

Here's a bit on what Bolton's been getting done:

The American ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, said shortly after Mr. Bush’s White House remarks that the United States was working with Japan on the text of a resolution under a provision of the U.N. charter that allows the use of military action to enforce Security Council rulings.

“We think it’s important to respond to even the claim of a nuclear test,” Mr. Bolton said.

Update: Ban Ki-Moon of S. Korea is officially named the new secretary general of the UN, and vows to resolve the N. Korean problem. 

Update: Illustrating that famous Fred-Phelpsian ear for public relations, the N. Korean ambassador to the UN asks for congratulations, not condemnation.

Update: Are they faking it?

Bob Owens takes a look at the seismic data.

To my untrained eye, it appears that the North Korean test didn't act in the same way that the Indian detonation did, going from normal seismic activity to a massive spike before receding. It appears to have ramped up at first, then spiked, then tapered off.

And, Josh Manchester has the same thought.

There is speculation that the test was a dud. This raises an interesting totalitarian leadership question: if one has only a handful of nuclear scientists, and they are expensive to create and maintain, when a nuclear scientist fails you, how do you punish him? Moreover, if one is such a nuclear scientist, and one knows that a nuclear capability is still beyond your means, but the Dear Leader schedules a test without your foreknowledge, how do you tell him that his capabilities aren't quite what he thinks they are? Or do you just go ahead with it and hope that afterward his ire won't fall completely upon you?

A round-up of the guys crying "fake," here.  

Update: How 'bouts some philosophy from our Townhall brains... 

Michael Medved:

In the midst of a bitter election campaign, some Democratic partisans will probably scoff at any response from President Bush to the intensifying threat from North Korea, especially when he orders the naval blockade that appears most likely. We will almost certainly hear charges that the President is over-reacting to the challenge from Kim Jong Il to try to scare the public into returning Republicans to Congressional control. It’s all but certain that John Kerry, Howard Dean, Ned Lamont, Joe Biden and other worthies will insist that no reaction is possible without the unanimous support of the United Nations, and that we should allow the new Secretary General (a Korean, ironically) to negotiate his way out of the problem. Special commission, anyone? How about a world peace conference? Maybe Munich might be a good location -- just in time for Oktoberfest.

Dean Barnett:

But what about us? What do conservatives have to offer at this moment? How about this – the truth, no matter how disquieting it may be.

First, there’s a piece of good news in that North Korea is an outlier and not bent on global conquest unlike other aspirants to the Nuclear Club. What’s more, the NoKo power structure, in spite of its numerous oddities, cannot be credibly labeled a death cult. While it’s facile to say that it might have been nice if someone had waged a preemptive war against North Korea 12 years ago rather than send Jimmy Carter over to kiss Kim Il Sung’s tush, it happens to be true.

And that’s where North Korea’s little science project this morning can really help us – it can serve as a teachable moment. Lunatics who want to join the nuclear club won’t be easily deterred. We can even count on them getting help from some people whose best interests aren’t served by providing such services. If you think we’re engaging in some serious contemplation this morning, imagine what the Chicoms are going through.

Update: Questions we're all thinking about.  

Update: U.S. officials have confirmed that the nuke, if it did go off, was very small.

“We have assessed that the explosion in North Korea was a sub-kiloton explosion,” said the intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He added, “We don’t know, in fact, whether it was a nuclear explosion.” 

Looks like Russia is the only country who thinks this thing was anywhere near as big as Kim Jong would like us to think. Interesting to note, via Allah, that it's the country that got the most advanced notice of the test.

The NYT story linked above also has more details on the reaction of Security Council members who, Bolton says didn't "come even close to defending [the test]."

Update: You want a laugh? Try this one on for size.

Today in the NYT (that's TimesSelect, so I'm letting you in on my precious subscription), Paul Krugman writes a column decrying the Republican Party's use of the "paranoid style" of American politics to question the timing of the Foley scandal, suggest conspiracies, and wrongly categorize political enemies as "evil."

Stay tuned for next week's column in which Krugman will question the timing of the N. Korean nuke test, suggest conspiracies, and refer to President Bush as evil.

Full text of the Krugman column below-the-fold, where it belongs. Shh, don't tell the Times.

Update: Photoshop jihad on Kim Jong. Saw this one earlier this morning.

Update: Jack M., who I was totally and utterly remiss in not thanking for tipping me to the NorK story last night (Sorry!), takes a look at Dems on missile defense.

 [# More #]

Last week Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, explained the real cause of the Foley scandal. “The people who want to see this thing blow up,” he said, “are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros.” 

Most news reports, to the extent they mentioned Mr. Hastert’s claim at all, seemed to treat it as a momentary aberration. But it wasn’t his first outburst along these lines. Back in 2004, Mr. Hastert said: “You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from.”

Does Mr. Hastert really believe that George Soros and his operatives, conspiring with the evil news media, are responsible for the Foley scandal? Yes, he probably does. For one thing, demonization of Mr. Soros is widespread in right-wing circles. One can only imagine what people like Mr. Hastert or Tony Blankley, the editorial page editor of The Washington Times, who once described Mr. Soros as “a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust,” say behind closed doors.

More generally, Mr. Hastert is a leading figure in a political movement that exemplifies what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously called “the paranoid style in American politics.”

Hofstadter’s essay introducing the term was inspired by his observations of the radical right-wingers who seized control of the Republican Party in 1964. Today, the movement that nominated Barry Goldwater controls both Congress and the White House.

As a result, political paranoia — the “sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” Hofstadter described — has gone mainstream. To read Hofstadter’s essay today is to be struck by the extent to which he seems to be describing the state of mind not of a lunatic fringe, but of key figures in our political and media establishment.

The “paranoid spokesman,” wrote Hofstadter, sees things “in apocalyptic terms. ... He is always manning the barricades of civilization.” Sure enough, Dick Cheney says that “the war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization.”

According to Hofstadter, for the paranoids, “what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil,” and because “the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated.” Three days after 9/11, President Bush promised to “rid the world of evil.”

The paranoid “demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals” — instead of focusing on Al Qaeda, we’ll try to remake the Middle East and eliminate a vast “axis of evil” — “and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration.” Iraq, anyone?

The current right-wing explanation for what went wrong in Iraq closely echoes Joseph McCarthy’s explanation for the Communist victory in China, which he said was “the product of a great conspiracy” at home. According to the right, things didn’t go wrong because the invasion was a mistake, or because Donald Rumsfeld didn’t send enough troops, or because the occupation was riddled with cronyism and corruption. No, it’s all because the good guys were stabbed in the back. Democrats, who undermined morale with their negative talk, and the liberal media, which refused to report the good news from Iraq, are responsible for the quagmire.

You might think it would be harder to claim that traitors are aiding our foreign enemies today than it was during the McCarthy era, when domestic liberals and Communist regimes could be portrayed as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. What does the domestic enemy, which Bill O’Reilly identifies as the “secular-progressive movement,” have to do with the religious fanatics who attacked America five years ago?

But that’s easy: according to Mr. O’Reilly, “Osama bin Laden and his cohorts have got to be cheering on the S-P movement,” because “both outfits believe that the United States of America is fundamentally a bad place.”

Which brings us back to the Foley affair. The immediate response by nearly everyone in the Republican establishment — wild claims, without a shred of evidence behind them, that the whole thing is a Democratic conspiracy — may sound crazy. But that response is completely in character for a movement that from the beginning has been dominated by the paranoid style. And here’s the scary part: that movement runs our government.