North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Programs

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October 11, 2006

North Korea Likely to Escalate Nuclear Confrontation

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. Leaks from the US Intelligence Community to journalists indicating that the DPRK nuclear demonstration was not, in fact, a detonation of a nuclear weapon, were, on October 10, 2006, being met with disbelief by intelligence professionals in Japan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), South Korea (ROK), and Russia. The intelligence services of these countries agreed that the US posture of denial on the DPRK’s nuclear weapon demonstration was likely to cause North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to undertake the more reckless path of dispatching a TaepeDong-2 missile with a nuclear warhead into the Pacific for a more unmistakable demonstration.

DPRK officials confirmed that this was an option for Pyongyang if the US failed to take North Korea’s nuclear capability seriously.

The US intelligence and diplomatic community remained in a potentially dangerous state of denial over the North Korean nuclear explosion.

GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs analysis showed that the US Intelligence Community and State Department — still operating, essentially, under the Clinton Administration guidelines — were continuing to resist acknowledging the absolutely clear intelligence on the DPRK’s nuclear weapon demonstration. There was apparently belief in the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and State Department that the situation — which had been deliberately denied and ignored in the past — could continue to be played down and obfuscated by denials.

The CIA was believed to be the source for a report published on October 10, 2006, by The Washington Times’ writer Bill Gertz to the effect that the DPRK detonation may not have been a nuclear blast, and that the blast itself was small, therefore indicating a failure of the conventional trigger to cause a nuclear reaction. One Russian intelligence official in charge of nuclear monitoring reviewed all the evidence after The Washington Times report and told his superiors: “The CIA must be smoking something very strange.”

Copley said that there were several things the US leadership must do if it wished to regain control in this situation:

1. The White House must state that the DPRK's possession of a viable nuclear weapons program does not confer the right on Iran to obtain or deploy nuclear weapons, and that the US supports the right of the Iranian people to take whatever measures they need to stop the clerics from wasting the Iranian economy on nuclear weapons at a time when the average Iranian citizen is being deprived of economic wellbeing and social mobility;

2. The White House must note that the absolute commitment of the George W. Bush Administration to anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defenses means that even now the DPRK and Iranian strategic missiles are of questionable strategic value. The West possesses the tools to ensure that no strategic missile attack will be guaranteed of success, and the ongoing commitment of the US to strategic missile defenses will ensure that the threats by rogue states, and the threats of nuclear Armageddon, are essentially being overtaken by defensive technologies pioneered by President Ronald Reagan, and being carried to fruition by the George W. Bush Administration.

3. The White House must move with conviction to ensure that the populations of both Syria and Iran are able to bring about changes of their governments. These actions, in which the populations of Iran and Syria are ready to act on their own (awaiting only US and World public opinion to support them), would deprive North Korea of the funding partners for their nuclear weapons and strategic missile programs, leaving these programs to wither on the vine in the same way that the removal of Iraqi (financial and scientific) support (under the Saddam Administration) meant that the Libyan nuclear weapons program was left to wither away.

These were just three of the basic options open to the US leadership.

Significantly, in the new book, The Art of Victory, I sounded a note of optimism about the imminent end of the efficacy of nuclear weapons delivered by ballistic missiles. I said in the book: “Terrestrially-based anti-ballistic-missile systems have already made problematic the success of North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles. The greatest potency which lingers for those nuclear weapons held by ‘rogue states’ lies in their psychological impact. Our collective minds are held captive by icons of the past. Science has already moved on, even if many scientists and politicians have not.” (See