March 13th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Material in North Korea's nuclear test unclear, worrying for U.S.

By Jill Dougherty and Pam Benson

More than a month after North Korea tested a nuclear device, the United States is unable to pinpoint whether the regime was able to use uranium to fuel the explosion, a capability that would represent a significantly enhanced nuclear program.

The lack of clarity comes as North Korea ratchets up its bellicose rhetoric each day.

New video broadcast on North Korean television showed the nation's leader, Kim Jong Un, addressing his troops along the border on Monday and issuing a blood-chilling threat, "Throw all enemies into the caldron, break their waists and crack their windpipes." It was the same location he and his late father visited in November 2010, just two days before the North shelled an island, killing four South Koreans.

The bellicose comments have been intensifying over the past months, increasing worry about Kim's unpredictability.

"I am very concerned about what they might do. And they are certainly, if they chose ... could initiate a provocative action against the South," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

North Korea has threatened a pre-emptive nuclear attack not only on South Korea, but on the United States too. Military and White House officials have said the United States can defend against any such threat. President Barack Obama told ABC news this week that he does not think North Korea can make good on the threat.

"They probably can't, but we don't like margin of error," Obama told ABC News.

That ambiguity is not lost on Sen. Dianne Feinstein. "There's perhaps nowhere else on Earth where the capacity to wreak enormous damage is matched by the possibility of North Korea using their nuclear weapons," the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee said.

Particularly worrisome are the advancements the North Koreans have made in their nuclear and missile programs. In December, they successfully launched a long-range ballistic missile for the first time under what the United States and other Western nations say was the guise of putting a satellite into orbit.

The United States is concerned that a long-range ballistic missile could be fitted with a nuclear warhead and could be capable of striking the mainland, although experts say North Korea does not yet have the expertise to do so.

And then last month, the Pyongyang regime conducted its third underground nuclear test.

U.S. officials tell CNN they have not determined what kind of nuclear device the north tested underground from its Pung-gye-Ri nuclear test site.

A U.S. intelligence official said "nothing has changed" since the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put out a statement within hours of the February 12 nuclear test indicating the test had an explosive yield of several kilotons.

The U.S. Air Force uses sniffer planes to take air samples after a test in hopes of scooping up radioactive particles that will provide more specific details about the contents. The official's comment indicates the United States has obtained no further information that would help determine the type of nuclear material used, and at this late date, probably would not.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, an international group that monitors nuclear tests, also said it was unable to get a fix on what fissile material was used by the North Koreans and didn't expect it ever would.

"What we are not sure of is if the North Koreans used plutonium, which they used in their earlier tests or highly enriched uranium for this third test," said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. "If they used highly enriched uranium, that would be very worrisome because it would suggest they have a larger supply of this material that would allow them to build a larger number of nuclear weapons."

Kimball said detection is always iffy. If the chamber where the explosion takes place deep underground is well-sealed, few particles may be released into the atmosphere. And if samples are gathered, they need to be "relatively fresh and very good" to determine whether it was a plutonium-based or uranium-based explosion.

The type of nuclear material matters because North Korea gave up its production of weapons-grade plutonium six years ago and only has a limited amount of the fissile material in its stocks, enough for approximately six bombs, according to experts. After years of denial, the regime acknowledged in 2010 it had an enriched uranium facility. That's problematic because such facilities are hard to detect and could produce large supplies of highly enriched uranium.

Kimball doesn't like the trend. "They don't yet have the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could reach the U.S. Despite whatever they say, they may soon - in the next two to three years with further testing - be able to deliver a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile that could strike their neighbors," Kimball said.

A North Korean expert believes that Kim Jung Un's regime is playing the international community. "North Korea had done three tests: the ballistic missile, the nuclear and a test of all of us, and the question is, what are we going to do?" said Philip Yun, executive director of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-nuclear weapons foundation.

The United States and the United Nations have recently imposed additional economic sanctions against North Korea, but so far sanctions have not led to the resumption of talks.

The U.S. special envoy to North Korea says unless the regime is serious about talks and meets its obligations to de-nuclearize, its future will be bleak.

"North Korea will not achieve security, economic prosperity and integration into the international community while it pursues nuclear weapons, while it threatens its neighbors, while it tramples on international norms, abuses its own people and refuses to fulfill its long-standing obligations and commitments," Glyn Davies told a congressional panel. "This is one of the hardest foreign policy problems out there."

soundoff (981 Responses)
  1. Larhonda Folz

    It's exhausting to say

    https://www.fmyykj.com/

    June 29, 2021 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  2. reextAni

    pharmacy tech online study online schools for pharmacy technician Cialis Professional

    June 13, 2021 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  3. clupsAsd

    cialis us pharmacy cialis on line purchase cialis sales

    June 12, 2021 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  4. VelmSwa

    buy cialis singapore cialis blac generic cialis online

    June 9, 2021 at 6:16 pm | Reply
  5. reextDev

    the pharmacy store apopka fl erectile dysfunction treatment canadian pharmacy world

    June 7, 2021 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  6. reextGtv

    prednisone online pharmacy national rx pharmacy cheap canadian drugs

    June 7, 2021 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  7. fipleVed

    how often can i take cialis cialis tablets purchase generic cialis

    June 7, 2021 at 11:33 am | Reply
  8. fipleloh

    difference between viagra cialis and levitra original cialis low price cialis recreational

    June 7, 2021 at 9:20 am | Reply
  9. reextHtf

    bph medications cialis back pain cialis cialis bestellen

    June 7, 2021 at 5:08 am | Reply
  10. reextAni

    pharmacy supply store buying prescription drugs online canadian pharmacies world pharmacy india

    June 5, 2021 at 1:03 am | Reply
  11. clupsAsd

    best prices cialis 20mg cialis professional wikipedia generic cialis 10mg 30 pills

    June 3, 2021 at 9:59 am | Reply
  12. VelmSwa

    cialis stores cialis las vegas cheap cialis generic

    June 2, 2021 at 10:25 am | Reply
  13. reextDev

    walgreens pharmacy refill online accutane online canadian pharmacy canadian pharmacy

    May 31, 2021 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  14. reextGtv

    online pharmacy prescription nile rx pharmacy voltaren gel canadian pharmacy

    May 31, 2021 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  15. fipleVed

    long term side effects of cialis generic brand of cialis is cialis the same as viagra

    May 31, 2021 at 11:02 am | Reply
  16. fipleloh

    cialis with dapoxetine australia overnight delivery side effects of cialis vs viagra cialiscanada

    May 31, 2021 at 7:47 am | Reply
  17. reextHtf

    buy brand cialis cialis effect cialis & viagra

    May 31, 2021 at 4:56 am | Reply
  18. reextAni

    online pharmacy cash on delivery https://pharmacyken.com/ – the online pharmacy script pharmacy

    May 29, 2021 at 9:42 pm | Reply
  19. clupsAsd

    fast delivery cialis super active https://cialisjla.com/ – best price on generic cialis cialis without prescription

    May 28, 2021 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  20. VelmSwa

    cialis vi https://ckacialis.com/ – cialis generic cipla cialis best price

    May 27, 2021 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  21. reextDev

    canadian pharmacies selling voltaren canadian pharmacy vipps approved pharmacy rx online

    May 26, 2021 at 5:08 am | Reply
  22. reextGtv

    Sildalist how to buy prescription drugs from canada safely Prozac

    May 25, 2021 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  23. fipleVed

    cialis/generic https://krocialis.com/ – how to buy cialis in sydney cialis supplier uk

    May 25, 2021 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  24. fipleloh

    does cialis increase blood pressure https://rcialisgl.com/ – how much is generic cialis cialis precautions

    May 25, 2021 at 11:48 am | Reply
  25. reextHtf

    cialis generic cheap prices https://cialishav.com/ – cheapest cialis tadalafil 20 mg buy cialis online india

    May 25, 2021 at 8:04 am | Reply
  26. Lebnreext

    northwest pharmaceuticals canada https://xlnpharmacy.com/ canadian pharcharmy online no precipitation

    May 23, 2021 at 10:11 am | Reply
  27. Jebgreext

    uk pharmacy no prescription http://pharmacylo.com/ cheapest pharmacy canada

    May 22, 2021 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  28. Lbsofiple

    can i take cialis with daxpoteine https://ucialisdas.com/ cialis dosage

    May 22, 2021 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  29. Rebffiple

    next day delivery cialis http://rcialisgl.com/ generic cialis quick shipping

    May 22, 2021 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  30. Gtnbclups

    diy viagra http://jokviagra.com/ what if viagra doesnt work

    May 22, 2021 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  31. Fmrfreext

    cialis 20 mg https://cialisee.com/ cialis mail order

    May 21, 2021 at 3:59 am | Reply
  32. BbshVelm

    viagra cialis levitra https://loxviagra.com/ – cialis and viagra together buy generic viagra online usa

    May 21, 2021 at 2:01 am | Reply
  33. Lebnreext

    discount pharmaceuticals http://xlnpharmacy.com/ prescription cost comparison

    May 18, 2021 at 3:57 am | Reply
  34. Jebgreext

    Lisinopril Combivir script pharmacy

    May 17, 2021 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  35. Fmrfreext

    europe cialis http://cialisee.com/ cialis paypal payment canada

    May 17, 2021 at 2:28 am | Reply
  36. Lbsofiple

    cheapest generic cialis online https://ucialisdas.com/ overnight pharmacy cialis

    May 16, 2021 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  37. Rebffiple

    cialis 20 mg best price https://rcialisgl.com/ is cialis time released?

    May 16, 2021 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  38. Anooreext

    viagra online france https://llviagra.com/ viagra works cialis doesnt

    May 16, 2021 at 3:26 am | Reply
  39. Gtnbclups

    sildenafil vs viagra http://jokviagra.com/ what do viagra pills look like

    May 13, 2021 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  40. BbshVelm

    viagra sample pack https://loxviagra.com/ extenze vs viagra

    May 12, 2021 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  41. Lebnreext

    canadian pharma companies http://xlnpharmacy.com/ cialis canadian pharmacy

    May 10, 2021 at 11:54 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5

Leave a Reply to Fbshreext


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.