September 12, 2004


This doesn’t sound good:

A reliable source in Seoul's diplomatic community says Sunday a mushroom cloud with a radius of 3.5 to 4 kilometers was spotted in Kimhyongjik County in North Korea's northernmost inland province of Yanggang on Sept. 9.

Posted by Tim Blair at September 12, 2004 02:32 PM

That is scary.

If it's really a nuclear test, American satellites will have spotted it.

I suspect, though, that the US won't be making any diplomatic or other moves until the election is over.

Posted by: EvilPundit at September 12, 2004 at 02:38 PM

ABCNews has some more details.

Posted by: Justinlah at September 12, 2004 at 03:07 PM

Blown themselves up at last

Posted by: Le clerc at September 12, 2004 at 03:24 PM

Relax. They signed the NPT. It's just a train or a grain silo.

Yeah, right.

Posted by: Laurence Simon at September 12, 2004 at 03:49 PM

I question the timing of this explosion.

Is it just a coincidence that this happens when Dan Rather is having his pants pulled down?

Posted by: am at September 12, 2004 at 03:56 PM

Oh man, it's on now. This is big.

Posted by: Rob at September 12, 2004 at 04:04 PM

Brought to you by the Clinton/Carter treaty and South Korea's Sunshine Policy. Kerry has promised to do as much with Iran- gifts and incentives, good faith and inspections.

Works swell.

Posted by: charlotte at September 12, 2004 at 04:13 PM

Can anyone test nukes over NK? That would be cool.

Posted by: Brian at September 12, 2004 at 04:27 PM

Whoa now, don't get too carried away so soon.

First, any big explosion will create a mushroom cloud.

Second, a crater "visible from space" can today be as small as a few meters in diameter courtesy of modern high-resolution satellite imagery.

Third, this occured near a missile facility, it very well could have been from a rocket explosion during preparations or what-have-you during an attempt to launch a satellite to commemorate NK's "birthday".

Fourth, wait for better info than what we have, there are many tried and true methods for nuclear testing detection (atmospheric radiation monitoring, seismic networks, etc.), let them work and wait for the results.

Fifth, it seems unlikely that North Korea would perform an atmospheric nuclear test, or a nuclear test of any sort, and not publicize it to the world.

If it is a nuke test then the shit has just hit the fan, big time, and we ain't seen nothin' yet in the War on Terror (on either side) so hold onto your butts.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at September 12, 2004 at 04:52 PM

BBC reports that the explosion took place only 10 km from the border with China.

Somehow I do not believe the Chinese would be at all pleased with a test so nearby, and with fallout certain to drift onto Middle Kingdom territory.

Posted by: Former CNN Watcher at September 12, 2004 at 05:15 PM

    Hmm. According to this site, the mushroom cloud from the Trinity test rose an estimated 30,000 feet, about nine to ten kilometers.  Several sites I won't bother to list (Google trinity test mushroom cloud diameter) say the cloud diameter on various tests reached far wider than the height of the cloud.  So a 4 kilometer diameter for a mushroom cloud would imply a kilometer or less of height.

    So, if this is a nuke going off, then it was a small one, less than the 19-20 kilotons of the first Trinity test.

Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge at September 12, 2004 at 05:23 PM

Stephen: Read the report. It says that the *radius* was 4km, not the *diameter*.

Posted by: George at September 12, 2004 at 05:43 PM

Would this be a good time to remember that Hans Blix was the IAEA guy who tried to convince everyone that NK was working to comply the the NPT they'd signed? In the best possible reading, Hans was unable to acknowledge the continuing project.


Posted by: Crid at September 12, 2004 at 06:37 PM

If it was nuclear, the Nth Koreans would only be testing because Bush said he considered them part of the axis of evil, right? Dear Leader would not have contemplated such weapons before Bush's speech

Posted by: max power at September 12, 2004 at 06:46 PM

According to CNN, this appears to be a gigantic accident/screwup involving North Korean long range missle (rocket). As Robin Goodfellow points out, the last time North Korean tested their long range missle, they launch on over Japan, and actually send a spunik model satellite broadcasting North Korean military song... They could've been attempt to do an even bigger one this time, and it really blew up.

Oh, I don't think Kim is that insane to do an aboveground nuclear test on the Chinese border. China might interperate that as an act of war against China.

Posted by: BigFire at September 12, 2004 at 06:50 PM

Reuters and AP say 4 km diameter. AFP, Bloomberg, and the originating Yonhap News Agency's English-language site say 4 km radius.

Posted by: Warmongering Lunatic at September 12, 2004 at 06:51 PM
Reuters and AP say 4 km diameter. AFP, Bloomberg, and the originating Yonhap News Agency's English-language site say 4 km radius.
If the last two weeks have taught us anything, it's that Reuters and the AP are even less credible than Agents of the French President. Posted by: Aaron at September 12, 2004 at 07:07 PM

If I recall correctly, Fuel - Air explosives are so large they have been mistaken for small atomic explosions. It sounds like an event which is well within the reach of conventional technology, at least so far.

Posted by: John Nowak at September 12, 2004 at 07:26 PM

I'll believe it's whatever CBS tells us it is.

Posted by: graboy at September 12, 2004 at 07:39 PM

There is no such thing as North Korea,Its a figmant of our imagination,like Tibet.Wake up you idoits.This rubbish is pure Peking.

Posted by: Larado at September 12, 2004 at 08:00 PM

My theory: NK was lining up for a rocket launch to celebrate their anniversary. They use liquid-fuelled rockets. The whole lot went up.

Posted by: am at September 12, 2004 at 08:06 PM

I suppose some lunatic will wonder,will Japan start to re-arm itself.You bet,they will.Good luck and god bless.

Posted by: Larado at September 12, 2004 at 08:18 PM

The lunacy is starting to line up.Bit by bit.Who are our generals?They have no idea.The twenty-first century, whatever it is,will not be a time of peace.

Posted by: Larado at September 12, 2004 at 08:35 PM

Come on people, these are fucking Koreans we are talking about. I lived in Seoul, Korea for five years. The official motto of the coutry is "The Land Of The Morning Calm". Yeah, right. We knew the place as "The Land Of Close Enough". They do a pretty decent job on the first 90%, but the final 10%, they don't have a clue.

When I lived there, they had apartments just fall down, a department store just fall down and kill over 500 people, a bridge over the Han River in Seoul just fall down, etc., etc., etc.

I have no doubt that your average North Korean shares the same genetic traits and attitude towards exactitude as your average South Korean -- none whatsoever.

It's ironic as the Japanese are fanatics over what could best be described as the "fit and finish", for any job they do. The Koreans are your basic un-Japanese.

Posted by: David Crawford at September 12, 2004 at 09:41 PM

More information collecetd here (there's four articles; just keep scrollin'), with comments by some retired intel guys. Seems to have been a large conventional explosion--there was no EMP detected, and the flash from a nuke is unmistakable.

Posted by: Mike at September 12, 2004 at 11:38 PM

David Crawford: makes me glad I didn't buy a Hyundai.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 13, 2004 at 01:22 AM

They're testing a new hot sauce.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at September 13, 2004 at 01:32 AM

Well, obviously NK has set us up the bomb.

We must Zig! for great justice.

Posted by: Dave S. at September 13, 2004 at 01:45 AM

I agree with Robin Goodfellow. We won't know that this was a nuke until testing the fallout for nuclear material is complete. That will take several days, even with Chinese/NK cooperation (yeah, right).

This could be a very large chemical explosion, cause unknown. Until then, we are only speculating.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at September 13, 2004 at 02:50 AM

So that's where I left my most recent batch of weapons grade chili...

Posted by: Cybrludite at September 13, 2004 at 07:40 AM

IIRC, the usual way to detect nuke tests is siesmic sensors.

Posted by: rosignol at September 13, 2004 at 08:37 AM

That, gentelmen, would be China saying hi, I love you man! but, my biggest trading partner does not respect loud noises.....soooo, lets place after the elections...ok??
gotta love diplomacy:))

Posted by: dmz at September 13, 2004 at 09:40 AM

I don't care, let the NK's go nuke, and withdraw all US troops from South Korea and Japan.

First of all, the Japs and Koreans can now start paying for their own defence. They have the technology to go nuke themselves, which will freak the shit out of the Chinese. So the Chinese do what they always do and look after number one, and Lil' Kim mysteriously dies of an unexpected heart attack around the same time the Chinese army come across the border for "famine relief".

Voila, Axis of Evil regime change number 2.

US troops go on to defend somewhere more useful like Iraq, or more appreciative like Poland.

Now for Iran.

Posted by: steve at September 13, 2004 at 01:22 PM

Steve.....Steve.....Steve. Geez.

Posted by: YoJimbo at September 13, 2004 at 02:43 PM


geez all you like, but this is how it's going to play out. The Americans will make North Korea China's problem, and the Chinese will sort it out.

Do you think the Chinese are happy with Lil' Kim with nukes?

Posted by: steve at September 13, 2004 at 04:48 PM

Just a thought.
Perhaps they have been trying to fake a nuke test. This event plus the recent large explosion in the NK railway yards may be connected with failed attempts to stockpile sufficient non nuclear explosives in one place to eventually simulate a nuke test. (Thereby scaring us all and creating FUD) The US did similar conventional tests prior to the first nuke tests in the 40's.
Very close to China though.

Posted by: MOik at September 13, 2004 at 06:15 PM

I never thought I'd be sorry to hear about a mushroom cloud over North Korea.

Posted by: R C Dean at September 14, 2004 at 12:26 AM