Report: North Korea tests nuke; Update: Yield of only 550 tons of TNT? Update: 5-15 kilotons, says Russia

Just breaking on Fox, according to South Korean government officials. Standby.

Update: U.S. intel can’t confirm yet.

Update: NK’s official news agency claims the test was successful. Of course, they would.

Update: Looks like the Telegraph was a little wide of the mark with this nugget from earlier today:

Russian military officials in Pyongyang say they have received information that North Korea intends to give the US up to three months to lift financial sanctions imposed last year and to begin negotiations before carrying out its threat. “If Americans don’t start bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang and lift sanctions, then Kim Jong-il is expected to give the order to carry on with the test, most likely in the second half of December or early January,” one official said.

The army wanted a test as soon as possible — to spite China, according to Reuters’s sources.

The Russian officials claim that the bomb has a 20-kiloton yield, similar to the one used on Nagasaki, and would be capable of killing 200,000 people.

As for the new South Korean UN Secretary-General, early indications are that he’s an empty suit. Which might not be a bad thing, come to think of it.

Update: The U.S. Geological Survey has detected no seismic activitiy, but that’s not necessarily proof that a test didn’t happen.

Update: Uh oh:

In Seoul a foreign ministry spokesman said South Korea’s intelligence agency has detected a 3.58-magnitude seismic tremor, following North Korea’s announcement of a nuclear test.

Update: South Korean markets plummet. North Korean markets? No such thing.

Update: Bizarre — Fox says the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting no seismic activity in North Korea. That South Korean readings have to be more accurate due to proximity, don’t they? U.S. defense officials also say there’s no confirmation of a test.

Update: The South Korean military is still at normal alert.

Update: CNN says that the U.S. military still hasn’t confirmed there was a test, but they believe the reports are true.

Update: The U.S. Geological Survey is telling Fox that “some seismic activity” data is coming in now. Official word expected within the next half hour.

Update: ABC keeps its priorities straight.


Update: Fox is reporting that China got a heads-up from NK 20 minutes before the test. South Korean President Roh has, naturally enough, convened an emergency cabinet meeting.

Update: Silver lining(?): This will probably make it easier for us to get China and Russia to agree to sanctions on Iran. One lunatic with nukes is enough.

Update: The South Korean military has now raised its alert level, according to Fox.

Update: Here’s the seismic data page at the U.S. Geographical Survey website. Lots of blips there right now, including on this graph taken at Inchon in the south:


Update: A senior Bush official tells Bret Baier of Fox News that a test probably occurred, although supposedly the NorKs were shooting for a 400-kiloton explosion and that doesn’t jibe with a 3.5 Richter reading.

Update: The typically freaky-deaky official North Korean announcement:

“The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation.

“It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation.

“The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability.

“It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.”

Update: I question the timing: New Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is in Seoul right now for pre-planned talks.


Update: Supposedly Aussie PM John Howard has confirmed that the test took place. Fox reported that but I’m looking for a link.

Update: China has issued a formal statement “opposing” the test according to Fox.

Update: The U.S. Geological Survey confirms: they detected a 4.2 tremor on the peninsula.

Update: Food for thought, via Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee and the Freepers: How would we know the difference between a nuke test and a detonation of several thousand tons of conventional explosives? The NorKs are claiming there’s been no leakage from the underground site so presumably there’s no radiation signature for us to detect. How many tons of explosives would it take to generate a 4.2 tremor? Is that even possible with regular ordnance?

Update: Here’s the USGS page reporting the “earthquake” in North Korea. Metaphorically accurate, if not literally. Note the depth of “0 miles.”


Update: Dorkafork points to this … worrisome op-ed by one of Kim’s lackeys that was published a few days ago in the Asia Times. Quote: “Unlike all the previous wars Korea fought, a next war will be better called the American War or the DPRK-US War because the main theater will be the continental US, with major cities transformed into towering infernos.” It’s worth noting that the Russian officials who spoke to the Telegraph claim that the NorK weapon couldn’t be delivered by missile. Yet.

Update: WaPo says the U.S. Navy might be ready to set up a little makeshift customs operation off the North Korean coast:

U.S. intelligence sources said the Bush administration is talking about immediate naval action around North Korea. “This won’t exactly be a blockade, which is an act of war. But we could stop and inspect all ships in and out of North Korea,” one senior US government official said.

The Security Council will hold an emergency meeting later this morning.

Update: The Age newspaper is now saying that the Australia hasn’t confirmed the test.

Update: James Rosen of Fox News says the U.S. will call for a resolution barring any transfer of WMD or missile technology to NK and limiting trade — but not barring Chinese oil shipments to NK.

Update: Dorkafork points to this page as evidence that a 1kt bomb would generate a 4.0 tremor. One thousand tons of conventional explosives. Seems possible. Also, have a look at this page about U.S. tests to generate a nuclear-sized explosion with standard ordnance.

On the other hand, as I write this Fox is reporting that U.S. intel believes it’s “likely” the test happened — although they think the NorKs didn’t get quite as big a bang as they had intended.

Update: Fox reports that SK President Roh will be phoning Bush shortly. The White House will issue a statement overnight as well as another one tomorrow.

Update: The DUers are having armageddon sex. Alas, I’ve yet to receive my Japanese Fembot.

Update: I saw this report a few minutes ago at FR but dismissed it. Now Fox has a teaser up about it. Could the yield really have been only 550 tons of TNT? That’s half a kiloton. Compare and contrast:

The Boeing 767 and Boeing 757 that slammed into the WTC were carrying a combined total of about 200,000 pounds of jet fuel, and the combined power of the explosions was about 1,000 tons of TNT, a kiloton.

550 tons is an awfully small explosion, relatively speaking. Are we sure this was nuclear?

Update: Fox quotes U.S. intel officials as saying it was “more fizz than pop.”

Update: Haven’t watched it yet, but Karol says this documentary, called “Welcome to North Korea,” captures the oddness of the hermit kingdom like nothing else she’s ever seen or read.

Update: Mary K says the cover of Time’s new issue looks stupid now.

Update: Megyn Kendall is reporting on Fox that Russia’s defense minister has confirmed it was a nuclear test.

Update: By way of comparison, this page, quoting a British newspaper, says the collapse of the North Tower on 9/11 generated a 2.9 tremor on the Richter scale.

Update: The Russians estimate the yield at between 5 and 15 kilotons, which puts it in the ballpark of the Hiroshima bomb (12.5). Captain Ed is skeptical, as am I, although logically it makes more sense for the U.S. and South Korea to want the underplay the success of the test than for the Russians to want to overplay it.

Update: Think about this, too. The Soviet Union once tested a bomb with a 50-megaton yield. That’s equivalent to 50 million tons of conventional explosives. Supposedly that test generated a tremor of 7.0 on the Richter scale; would a test of 550 tons then generate a 4.2?

Update: A reader e-mails:

A 7.0 event is 1000 times more powerful than a 4.0 event (the Richter scale is base-10 logrithmic — think of the numbers as powers of 10). And the 50 megaton trial was atmospheric — which would dissipate much of the explosive shock and thus reduce the seismic signature.

The latter point makes sense, but the former doesn’t. 7.0 is a thousand times more powerful than 4.0, but the explosive yield in the Soviet bomb was 90,000 times what the NorK bomb was supposed to be. Assuming the NorK bomb was, as Russia insists, 15 kilotons, then the Soviet bomb yield was 3,300 times greater. That makes more sense, especially if the effect in the Soviet bomb was muted by the atmospheric nature of the test.

Update: Is another test coming? Maybe, according to South Korean media.

Update: New updates will appear in this thread.