Friday, August 18, 2006


Of a vague and dubious kind. North Korea "Appears to be Preparing for Nuclear Test," or so reads the breathless headline. Of course if one reads the fine print, the story pretty much falls apart. Some snippets:
U.S. officials caution that the intelligence is not conclusive. Last year U.S. spy satellites picked up suspicious activity at suspected test sites in North Korea, leading some to predict an imminent nuclear test, but nothing happened.
Underground nuclear tests are notoriously difficult to detect ahead of time. U.S. intelligence agencies, for example, failed to predict nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in 1998.
Some analysts believe Kim Jong Il may feel the only way to be taken seriously is to prove that North Korea is a nuclear power. Officials acknowledge that nobody really knows Kim Jong Il's intentions, but there is a belief among analysts that he is upset about the recent U.N. resolution condemning his missile tests and upset with the Chinese for supporting that resolution.
I suppose that "U.S. intelligence may be wrong yet again about another nation's WMD program" doesn't have the same sting as a headline but perhaps it would be more accurate?

UPDATE: Bush offers mild "warning" to North Korea:
"If North Korea were to conduct a test, it's just a constant reminder for people in the neighborhood, in particular, that North Korea poses a threat," Bush said at the Camp David presidential retreat. "We expect our friends and those sitting around the table with us to act in such a manner as to help rid the world of the threat."
Is it just me or does it sound like Bush is resigned to the DPRK being a nuclear weapons state?

Additional doubt and backtracking about the initial reports:
Bush refused to confirm or deny the report, saying he would not talk about intelligence information. State Department spokesman Tom Casey declined to comment.

South Korea's point man for the North said he was skeptical of the reports and U.S. officials have said they had no new evidence of such a plan.

"There was a lot less to that report than meets the eye," said one senior U.S. official.

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