My BS detector is ringing

The Washington Post tells us that American intelligence agencies have determined that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has an arsenal of between 30 and 60 nuclear weapons, and that they have successfully miniaturized one sufficiently to be loaded into the re-entry vehicle of an intercontinental ballistic missile. And from CNN:

North Korea threatens strike on Guam

By Zachary Cohen, CNN | Updated 9:43 PM ET, Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Washington (CNN)North Korea’s military is “examining the operational plan” to strike areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles, state-run news agency KCNA said early Wednesday local time.

The threat comes just hours after US President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang that if they continued to threaten the US, they would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.

The North Korean threat elucidated in its state media is a reaction to the flight of US B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula. The bombers flew out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

While the statement in KCNA came out following Trump’s threat, it would have taken several hours to draft and translate, and refers directly to the US flights.

“In the morning of August 8 the air pirates of Guam again appeared in the sky above South Korea to stage a mad-cap drill simulating an actual war,” the statement reads.

The bombers flew out of Guam on Monday as part of the US Air Force’s “continuous bomber presence,” according to the spokesman. The bombers were joined by Japanese and South Korean aircraft during their mission.

More at the original.

First, a huge complaint about the Washington Post story. The Post noted that intelligence officials believe that North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, and that the DPRK has between 30 and 60 warheads, but those warheads have been being built since the late 1990s; if North Korea only recently was able to miniaturize a warhead, then the vast majority of those 30 to 60 warheads are not small enough to be fitted onto a ballistic missile. That’s an important point.

But this is where my bovine feces detector is sounding: North Korea is one of the poorest countries on earth, with almost population-wide malnutrition. It’s primary industries are mining and metallurgy.

However, the building of nuclear warheads and long-range ballistic missiles is a very complex undertaking, requiring high precision equipment and very skilled technicians. These things are not mass produced, but individually assembled, to exacting tolerances, and I have to ask: is the DPRK capable of building more than a few of these things a year? It’s difficult to read on one hand that the people are subsisting on grass and acorns, and on the other that they have developed a large, long-range ballistic missile nuclear delivery system. Something just does not compute.

How, I have to ask, did American intelligence determine that the DPRK had developed a nuclear weapon small enough to mount on a ballistic missile? That’s not something which could likely have been determined by satellite reconnaissance; that’s something you’d figure out from human intelligence or the interception of communications. Given that Kim Jong-un likes to threaten and show off, it isn’t difficult to imagine the DPRK deliberately transmitting phony communications, to make the West think it is more powerful than it really is.

Sadly, this reminds me too much of 2001-2002, when the younger President Bush was making the case that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. That, after all, was what American intelligence was telling him, yet, when we invaded and got there, surprise, no WMD were found.1 When it comes to information of this sort, the CIA has made mistakes before.

And now, our intelligence agencies are telling The Washington Post all about North Korea’s nuclear threat. Yeah, I’m having a problem with that!

  1. Valerie Plame, the exposed CIA agent, had absolutely no reason to love President Bush, yet in her book Fair Game, she revealed that her department in the CIA, the one which analyzed the evidence concerning Iraqi weapons, was as surprised as anyone that no WMD were used or recovered.


  1. NK’s nukes are useless, save for one thing: they can be threatened if the DPRK invades the RoK, and the US intervenes. Well, while perhaps the DPRK could take out San Francisco and Los Angeles — which some of us would say wouldn’t be all bad — it would be national suicide to try it. Maybe Kim Jung-un is that crazy, but he doesn’t launch the nukes himself: there has to be a chain of command and actual technicians to launch the missiles, and it has to be asked if all of them would go ahead and commit suicide not only for themselves, but for their friends, families and country.

    The proper response to increasing DPRK weapons building is to increase the RoK’s conventional forces defenses. Kim Jung-un cannot expand his country in any other direction, and there’s no (sane) utility in using nuclear weapons.

    Right now, President Trump is falling into the same trap as Western leaders have been doing for years: reacting to every DPRK provocation as though the world is about to end, giving Kim Jung-un — and Kim Jong-il before him — just what they wanted: attention! Mr Trump blusters a lot, and backs down from no one, so he’s especially suited as a victim for North Korean tactics on this.

    The real villains in this are Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. President Clinton stupidly knuckled under when Mr Carter, negotiating beyond his authority, gave away too much, and President Clinton then — supposedly reluctantly — went along with it.

  2. The problem, I think, is like what we faced during the Cold War. We’re great at gathering intel on physical weapons, thanks to spy satellites and such, but we know very little about the psychology of their leaders, which only human intel (i.e., spies on the ground) can tell us. What is little tubby’s brain like, is he crazy or does he just act crazy to keep us off balance? Ditto his power structure, as in, would there be a coup if he tried to actually launch a nuke?

  3. Kim Jung-un might be crazy, or might be crazy like a fox, but one thing is certain: he is a very able man. He wasn’t part of the succession plans at all until his half-brother, Kim Jung-nam fell out of favor, and his elder full brother, Kim Jung-chul wasn’t considered forceful enough. His father could see his own end coming, and rapidly promoted his favored son, but still Kim Jung-un took power when he was only around 28, and he managed to not only secure power, but consolidate it very swiftly; his authority is unquestioned at this point, and we should not underestimate him.

    To launch a nuclear strike on the United States would be suicide, not only for him, but for his nation. If the Supreme Leader is crazy, then maybe he could give such an order, but to actually launch those nuclear weapons, however many he has, those orders would have to be obeyed by others, and most of those others are not insane. To defy the Supreme Leader’s orders would be suicide, but to obey them would not only be suicide for the technicians, but for everybody else in the country. Who can know how the technicians would respond to such an order?

    • Right, but this still tells us very little about Tubby’s mindset. It was the same with Iran 10 years ago when they were threatening Israel. The question of whether they were crazy or whether they meant it or were just bluffing was almost impossible to decide because we knew so little about them.

  4. Who can know how the technicians would respond to such an order?

    “Technicians” don’t control nuclear weapons. The military does and the military follows orders. I don’t think you understand the concept of *Absolute Power*. You’re talking about a person who threw his uncle to wild dogs.

  5. Pingback: President Trump’s ‘deplorable’ foreign policy worked! – The First Street Journal.

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