Ominous evidence of progress....
Pyongyang's third nuclear test was twice as powerful as its second (2009--the first, in 2006, is generally believed to have been a partial fizzle). But that is the least of it. This design was apparently lighter and more compact than the earlier ones--signs of work towards building a small but powerful warhead that can be placed atop a ballistic missile.
The 2006 test yielded less than one kiloton; the 2009 test yielded around 6 to 7 kilotons. The latest test's yield was about twice 2009's, by some estimates (newly TV-reported U.S. intel estimate: 6+ kilotons). If true this would place its yield at the level of the Hiroshima bomb (2/3 that for the Nagasaki bomb). All three tests used plutonium, a fuel that requires a sophisticated "implosion" trigger to symmetrically compress the plutonium fuel to a super-critical mass in nanoseconds to achieve design yield. Pyongyang is also working on a uranium enrichment route to a bomb, but there has been no uranium bomb test to date....
The North is still years away from fielding an operational missile that can carry a bomb across the Pacific Ocean and hit a major urban target in the continental United States. Its recent rocket tests show that the North has yet to master separation of second and third stages. However, a single-stage missile could plausibly threaten Tokyo, which is but 800 miles from Pyongyang; San Francisco, at 5,600 miles, is seven times farther away. (This Pyongyang Distance Calculator gives global distances to major cities from Pyongyang.)
Aiming at closer targets reduces the payload weight penalty and increases warhead accuracy, as well as shrinking drastically the warning time for the target population to take cover.
The usual diplomatic condemnations ring once again hollow, as Pyongyang's rulers care about as much about such twaddle as did Hitler, Stalin or Mao. In truth, given that South Korea's capital, Seoul, lies within range of 11,000 North Korean artillery pieces, that collectively could lay at least 250,000 shells on Seoul within one hour & kill many thousands, the civilized world is effectively held hostage.
And be sure that Iran, long a partner of North Korea in matters nuclear, is watching, taking note of the world's feeble response.
Bottom Line. Once again North Korea has thumbed its nose at the world and the world will, once again, do nothing. Iran will learn anew the value of being a member of the nuclear club, and will proceed accordingly. No diplomatic overture or blandishment will deflect Iran from its nuclear path.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, Homeland Security, Foreign Policy, WMD, Nuclear Proliferation, Conservative Politics