Friday, March 27, 2009

North Korea's Nuclear Weapons

The Washington Post reports today that North Korea is planning to launch, in April, a long-range missile into space.

North Korea states that the launch is for scientific purposes, but the suspicion is that it's actually a test of whether they have the capacity to put a nuclear warhead (which has to be sufficiently small) on this kind of missile ("North Korea 'may be able to successfully mate a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile,' Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said this month in testimony prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee.")

The article makes the point that one of the few successful industries in North Korea over the course of the past several decades has been producing missiles for export -- with the single-largest purchaser being Iran.

North Korea's one successful test of a nuclear weapon occurred in 2006:
North Korea exploded a small nuclear device in 2006 and has since declared it has "weaponized" its entire plutonium stockpile, which it says totals 57 pounds -- enough, experts say, to build four or five bombs.

But it is another major technical step to miniaturize these bombs for missile delivery. Scientists and governments disagree about how far North Korea has gone toward this goal.
157. How is the US coordinating its response on this development with our allies in that part of the world (South Korea, Japan, etc.) -- of the various countries, which takes the most aggressive posture towards North Korea? I would assume Japan, but is that right?

158. The map that I've posted here makes North Korea look incredibly mountainous --- almost like Afghanistan. Are mountains the predominant geographical feature there?

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