North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un’s word is truth, at least in North Korea where even looking at him askance will put you before a firing squad within the hour providing Kim Jong-Un doesn’t just have you shot on the spot. Knowing this, the rest of the world cannot put any real weight behind any unverified claims coming from any sources in North Korea including any journalist, western or otherwise, reporting from Pyongyang. Still, any explosive tests which register as in excess of a five on the Richter scale had to come from a very impressive explosive test. I remember when the North Koreans first tested a nuclear bomb and the measurement showed a yield of between four and five kilotons where some Western experts suggested that the North Koreans had simply loaded four or five kilotons of high explosive in the test chamber and detonated the entirety of the charges within a few milliseconds. Personally, I would find pulling of such an explosion using high explosives in a single mass more impressive and far more difficult than building a nuclear bomb producing the same yield. Within days there were the final reports which showed that the North Koreans had truly tested a nuclear device but it was relegated to being a crude device which was not likely a deliverable device. It took a couple of weeks before some experts put forth the premise that if the North Korean device had been designed to generate an EMP output, it would have been a fairly high radioactive signature and low yield of the size detected and that their having accomplished this would have been quite an impressive and threatening development. When the North Koreans tested another device with only a slightly higher yield, more in the range of the devices first used against Japan ending world War II, there was official admissions that there had been sufficient radioactive measurements detected by both satellite and earth bound test instruments.
So, where does all this leave us, the average and confused person worried about our stock prices, the new boss at work and all the other life troubles and mysteries? Honestly, waiting for more information on which to base a credible assessment, but since when had lack of concrete data ever stop us from giving it the old college try, whatever that is. There was one piece of so very vital and unbelievably obvious information in two out of every three articles we read informing us the reader that Hydrogen bombs are much more powerful and much more difficult to make than nuclear bombs. Well, thank you Captain Obvious. Now that we are all so vastly more well informed, let us venture forth. We also had the boilerplate reaction from South Korea expressed so succinctly by South Korean news agency Yonhap reporting that the South Korean government issued the following response to the test, “South Korea will cooperate with regional partners to make North Korea pay a price for its hydrogen bomb test. We strongly denounce the North for conducting the fourth nuclear test as the North pushed ahead with it despite repeated warnings by the international community.” Additionally there was the report that the United Nations Security Council will be holding a special meeting to discuss the recent test, which has garnered significant international worry. Well, guess we can rest assured that the Ace number one whiz kids from New York in Turtle Bay are on the case so we can all sleep assured of absolutely nothing.
Perhaps we should find out what the experts have to say now that the political absurdity class has chimed in with their normal blather. Despite the seismic shockwave of moderately impressive magnitude, we did not feel a thing so we are with the experts here; experts say a hydrogen bomb most definitely would have had to generate one many times as greater than what was measured, OK, with them on that as attested, nothing felt here. Oh, strike that, our science advisor said not to be silly, we were way too far to have felt anything, and we are reporting from the wrong planet, what? Oh, wrong side of the planet, whew, was getting worried. Bruce Bennett, an analyst with the Rand Corporation was quoted telling the BBC, “The bang they should have gotten would have been ten times greater than what they’re claiming. So Kim Jong-Un is either lying, saying they did a hydrogen test when they didn’t, they just used a little bit more efficient fission weapon, or the hydrogen part of the test really didn’t work very well or the fission part didn’t work very well.” Chinese military expert Du Wenlong made a similar statement which many have taken as further proof that the test was a dud or simply not as advertised, a hydrogen bomb. This sounds so much like the initial reporting on the first nuclear test by the North Koreans where they claimed they would have gotten an explosion nearly a factor of ten times with a real nuclear device only to find out later that there are actual nuclear devices which such a low yield is the exact signature their test or even use would produce. When further data was gathered it became obvious that there were anomalies still present at the test site which might have been induced by an extremely large magnetic pulse, exactly what would have resulted from an EMP device, or so many nuclear scientists reported. I was waiting to hear from President Jimmy Carter as he, after all, received a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946 in physics and in the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. He was also chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine program. He was assigned to Schenectady, N.Y., where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics, and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine. Would we have finally had him speak on something he was actually trained to know? Maybe not, we might have been expecting too much from old Jimmy.
Every expert simply had to show us their credentials were valid by pointing out that nuclear bombs are fission and hydrogen bombs are fusion, glad they cleared that up. Now let us muddy their simplistic description. A regular nuclear bomb actually detonates in two stages. The first stage is a high explosive charge which either propels a bullet into a core forcing them to reach critical mass and produce the nuclear fission or shaped charges are carefully triggered using flash detonators as they provide the separation of detonations such that only the triggered section of shaped charge explodes when its particular detonator is triggered and these flash detonators fire with very accurate timing far beyond the capability of a normal detonator and this compresses the fissile material which cause the nuclear explosion. Despite there being two stages to the nuclear fissile explosion due to critical mass being achieved, only the nuclear explosion would be detected by satellite monitoring as they monitor the flash wave of light. For a hydrogen bomb there is the a nuclear fissile explosion, a normal nuclear bomb, which then forces the fusion by reaching sufficient pressures and temperature for the fusion of hydrogen atoms and these emit two separate, though closely sequenced flashes which can be detected by satellites. These satellites use a system referred to as ‘bang meters’ which if they receive the double strike with the correct separation they know a hydrogen bomb has been detonated. The United States, Russia and probably China if not others have such detection satellites in orbit so if the North Koreans did detonate a hydrogen bomb successfully these and other satellites would have reported the test almost immediately and the main nuclear powers would have received such data almost immediately so any ambiguity on their part is completely intentional.
On the completely trustable front, White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested Pyongyang was lying, according to comments carried by Business Insider quoting him as saying, “We’re obviously going to continue to look at this by monitoring the situation, assessing the available data and evidence,” Earnest said, adding, “But the initial analysis is not consistent with the claims that the regime has made of a successful hydrogen-bomb test. There’s nothing that’s occurred in the last 24 hours that has caused the U.S. government to change our assessment of North Korea’s technical and military capabilities.” Well, that ought to settle it and we bet that President Obama likely called President Carter and after speaking about his brush with cancer got down to the important stuff, like if President Carter had viewed the tapes of President Obama and his problematic sand trap golf swing and as a side not requested President Carter’s expertise on the North Korean hydrogen bomb test at which point President Carter likely blamed the test on Netanyahu and the IDF. Then there was the State Department spokesman John Kirby who issued a statement positing that, “The United States government judges North Korea to have conducted a nuclear test yesterday. We strongly condemn this violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.”
What do we know for sure? North Korea has definitely tested a nuclear device magnitudes more powerful than any past nuclear test. Whatever knowledge was gleaned from this test will be, if it already has not been, shared with their scientific fellow scientists in Iran. Additionally these two powers have shared technical developments and carried out test for each other for quite a number of years now. Both sides are gaining knowledge without having to test these items within their own national borders thus North Korea gains rocket and missile as well as other weapons systems while Iran can test new nuclear designs in North Korea thus appearing to have observed at least that part of the nuclear agreement. Whether the device was fission or fusion, it was considerably more powerful than any previous test. The Western World is playing down any significance of the test despite whatever nervous feelings may be being felt in Europe knowing that Iran will benefit from this North Korean tested nuclear device. We have not received a straight answer about the complete knowledge that Western Intelligence Agencies actually know about this nuclear test in North Korea right down to whose design was being tested. We cannot rule out the probability that this was a joint effort between Iran and North Korea and if this was just a more efficient nuclear test, then we need to ascertain if the device was weaponized through miniaturization such that the device can readily be fitted to the Ballistic Missiles both Iran and North Korea possesses. There are more additional questions than there have been official statements and this is not likely to change in the near future and will only come to the surface if somebody leaks the true reality to the news services and they see fit to run with this potential bombshell of information. We cannot rule out Russian assistance in these events or anybody else. So, all we can do is pray and wait to see what comes next. North Korea has previously tested such devices twice in rapid succession; so we can expect a second test within the next four to six weeks. Such developments are simply further proof that the world keeps getting more and more dangerous and we are rushing forward without a care that the brakes are out and the downhill grade has increasing steepness and the only consolation we can take is it will be a wild and dangerous ride.
Beyond the Cusp