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Posts posted by Wijitmaker

  1. Analysts Unsure of N. Korea's Nuke Weapons

    Fri Sep 19, 4:43 AM ET


    By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON - Some American intelligence analysts are becoming increasingly concerned that North Korea (news - web sites) may have three, four or even six nuclear weapons instead of the one or two the CIA now estimates.

    Every new weapon would enhance North Korea's nuclear capability and give the country significantly more authority at the negotiating table, experts say.

    One or two nuclear weapons would be considered last-resort devices, because once used they could no longer deter a U.S. nuclear response. But a half-dozen would give North Korea the ability to strike and then be ready to strike again.

    In addition, if North Korea had weapons to spare, its leaders might be more willing to part with one, either in a test or by selling it. The leaders also could more easily afford to put one weapon on display at a missile launch site for U.S. spy satellites to see — to up the ante in negotiations.

    "We're trying to nail that down," Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said of analytical efforts to study North Korea's weapons program. "The consequences of them having more nuclear warheads is significant, in terms of them conducting a test, or possibly traf@#$%ing in nuclear materials," said Bayh, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee,

    Among the issues being debated by American intelligence analysts is whether the North Koreans have refined their nuclear weapons designs so they are able to use less plutonium to make a working weapon.

    Some analysts presume the North Koreans have made steady advances in their weapons' designs, and thus are able to use their existing stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium more efficiently, according to several U.S. government officials. They all discussed intelligence information on the condition of anonymity.

    However, the CIA, as an agency, has not reached that conclusion. It is sticking with its unclassified estimate of one or two weapons, the officials said. Other U.S. estimates put the number at three or four; still others are floating five or six weapons as a possibility.

    The Defense Intelligence Agency, State Department and Energy Department all have experts who examine intelligence on foreign nuclear weapons programs. It could not be ascertained if a particular agency is making the higher estimates.

    Ultimately, American intelligence officials acknowledge they simply don't know what the North Koreans have. Pyongyang claims to be a nuclear power. However, it has never tested a nuclear weapon, and it is unclear how capable its designs are.

    "The inherent ambiguity of intelligence was put in stark relief by events in Iraq," Bayh said. "A certain level of humility is in order in making intelligence assessments about any country, but particularly one as closed as North Korea."

    The U.S. estimates arise from three key variables: how much weapons-grade plutonium North Korea was able to make in the late 1980s, how much it has made this year, and how efficient its weapons designs are. Another unknown is whether Pyongyang is able to secretly make uranium-based weapons; U.S. intelligence currently believes the North Koreans cannot.

    The most pessimistic analysts say North Korea may be able to make a nuclear weapon with as few as 8.8 pounds of plutonium — an advanced design that many believe is beyond North Korea's capability. Officials predict such a bomb would probably have a yield of around 10 kilotons, meaning the blast would be equivalent to that from 10,000 tons of TNT.

    The bomb the United States dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, used 13 pounds of plutonium to produce a roughly 20-kiloton explosion that killed 70,000 people.

    But the other end of estimates suggests North Korea was able to make only about 33 pounds of plutonium from its reactor line at Yongbyon in the early 1980s — enough for perhaps three nuclear weapons if used in very efficient weapon designs.

    Some foreign intelligence services have suggested North Korea made more plutonium or smuggled some from outside of the country, according to published reports.

    North Korea also has material, in the form of 8,000 spent fuel rods, to make five or six more weapons. But this material must be reprocessed before it can go into a weapon.

    U.S. intelligence believes North Korean officials may have processed some of these rods this year, after U.N. inspectors left the country. How much is unclear but it is believed to be well under all 8,000.

    North Korea can also begin producing more of those fuel rods from a nuclear reactor, but it would take a year of operation before it can produce enough to make a new weapon.

    North Korea could deliver its nuclear weapons using aircraft bombs, covert means or long-range missiles. The country's longest-range missile believed capable of carrying a nuclear weapon can reach Japan. Pyongyang is developing longer-range missiles but it is unclear whether those missiles could carry a heavy nuclear payload.

  2. Well, just so you guys know I'm going to be posting an article that I find interesting at least 2 times a week. The catch is, I'm not going to discuss it. The reasons are:

    1) I don't have time to be defending my viewpoints

    2) I would be doing ALLOT of defending because I probably disagree with you all about almost every 'hot' topic.

    So, these articles will just be for you to read... and if you just think that is the most insain and outragous thing you have ever heard then post your thoughts!

    I'll find my first one today ;)

    Oh, and I'll try to post the author's name and a link to the source when possible.

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