Let's talk nukes.
It now appears that the Bush administration has their figurative mushroom cloud just in time for the fall elections. So far, all of the statements regarding the event have been predictable. Bush is threatening. Everyone else is condemning. North Korea is trumpeting amazing success.
Without getting into possibly classified details about how these things work and their physical characteristics, let me make the following points:
- They have no intention of conducting any more tests.
- Any significant design change would require a test, so they have one design and a very limited amount of fissile material.
- Their one design is almost certainly too big, too heavy and too fragile to mount on a missile.
- Their one design is without question too big and too heavy to put into a backpack, or even anything less than a small truck.
- A nuclear weapon that can't be delivered is only good for propaganda.
The DPRK is stirring the pot, nothing more. They have had all of this material since the US pulled out of the Agreed Framework. Their device has probably been complete for some time. I can think of only two scenarios where the insane leadership of the DPRK could convert this development into a serious threat:
- They load their nuke onto a submarine and sneak it into someone's harbor.
- They sell their nuke to a third party, who transports it out of the country to a place where they want a big bang.
Based on the degree of scrutiny that they will be subjected to as a result of their success, I think it very unlikely that they will be able to do either one of these things. China and Russia have both been embarrassed by this; they won't permit this thing to cross their borders. The only way to transport it is by sea. We have the technology and the seapower to detect and prevent that; all it will take is a minimal level of competence from the administration to set up the program.
Um, maybe we have something to worry about, after all.