Thursday, November 13, 2003

U.S. INTELLIGENCE ON DPRK NUCLEAR WEAPONS ETC. A belatedly late link to a post on the subject by the typically thorough Parapundit.
We assess that North Korea has produced one or two simple fission-type nuclear weapons and has validated the designs without conducting yield-producing nuclear tests. Press reports indicate North Korea has been conducting nuclear-weapons related high explosive tests since the 1980s in order to validate its weapons design(s). With such tests, we assess North Korea would not require nuclear tests to validate simple fission weapons.
Given the usual paucity of evidence or source materials the CIA and other intelligence agencies offer to support their contentions (at least in declassified settings) and given the less than stellar track record of American intelligence on Iraq, India-Pakistan etc., I'm not entirely convinced about the prospect of North Korea allegedly acquiring a nuclear capability without actually testing the weapons and delivery systems. Given the DPRK's nearly collapsed economy, lack of friends among the developed world, and relative isolation from the outside, I think the burden of proof would probably be on North Korea to demonstrate that it has actually overcome these barriers rather than American intelligence simply assuming that because it is possible the DPRK has actually crossed the nuclear rubicon. And, even though the CIA estimate appears to have probably been in the pipeline for some time, it is curious that this particular estimate sees the light of day at nearly the same time that USA Today reports that intelligence estimates about the uranium enrichment program may have been exaggerated (the timing of these allegations prompts Incestuous Amplification to ask why now?).

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