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back to article Nork nuke quite a lot less powerful than Hiroshima

Early reports of North Korea detonating a "Hiroshima sized" nuclear weapon over the weekend appear to have been - erm - overblown, with seismic data indicating an explosion less than half as powerful. The Guardian and other media have widely reported an estimate by the Russian defence ministry that the explosion in North Korea, …

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Paris Hilton

Nork Nuke??

Phew! I thought someone had invented a booby bomb or something.

Paris, 'cos she's got explosive norks, too (I think).

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Silver badge

Take the weapons of mass destruction..

and get the fuck out of here!

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Brilliant way out of a credit crunch...

Start a war!

Doesn't matter if it was a Nork nuke or a firecracker, we'll be going in shortly no doubt.

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Silver badge

"a blatant violation of international law"

If only they had said it was just a natural earth quake. Everyone would have been happy.

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Welcome to the club NKor

Now you too can decide who shouldn't be allowed nuclear weapons.

wait .. that didn't come out right...

ttfn

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Anonymous Coward

Which is the best headline?

Everybody Panic the Norks have got Nukes!

or

Relax the Norks can't build a decent Nuke.

If you want to spread FUD then the former. If you want to be realistic it would be the latter.

Which would our lords and masters prefer? Or to put it another way which would most effectively divert attention away from the economy? It's the swine flu "pandemic" all over again.

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Black Helicopters

A Thought

It would be in the USA's interest to say that the nuke detonated this weekend was another dud. After all, there's not much chance of seeing a headline telling us that 'NK Nuke was much bigger than expected', is there?

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Joke

Imagine my relief...

when I realised "Nork" = "North Korea" in this instance....!

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Anonymous Coward

WMD

No Kim Jong-Il, you can't have nuclear weapons because we've got them and there aren't enough to go around (or something).

Seriously though, if WE can blow up the world 20 times over then why aren't N Korea allowed a few little fireworks?

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Go

I think it's time..

I think its time for the UN to write him a very angry letter telling him how angry they are.

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Paris Hilton

Fakery

Is it possible that the regime might have stockpiled conventional explosives with some radioactive flavouring in order to fake a nuke test?

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Anonymous Coward

Oy Lewis

The thought occured to me...

"On the second try last month, the upper stages failed to separate and the payload - said by Pyongyang to be a satellite - fell into the Pacific"

Any chance that the "failed" separation was a test of a warhead re-entry vehicle?

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Anonymous Coward

Market?

Why in the world would you buy from North Korea when Pakistan has a proven product?

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Nuclear?

You know, it may just have been ~5KT of TNT.

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Probably not good news either way

It suggests the North Koreans are fixing their problems with making an implosion weapon, although there's clearly something wrong with their design or their materials.

Pretty much everyone else who's followed the Fat Man design (that'd be the Russians, British, Chinese and French - possibly the Indians and the Pakistanis) set it off and it worked; but not only did it work, but they got AT LEAST 19kT - actually the French did best with 70 kT on their first shot.

So either the North Koreans have some problems with their basic design or they're trying to jump ahead and miniaturise their design without doing the basic testing.

The worst news would have been if they'd produce a yield much more than 19kT - then we'd know we were in trouble.

Of course, he said thinking on the hoof, they might have tried a uranium cannon bomb like Little Boy (and the South African nukes). It's pretty much idiot proof and guaranteed to work, but it's a ridiculously inefficient bomb and produces a much lower yield. Though, whether North Korea has enough U235 to make one is a good question and it'd be militarily useless - too big to go into a missile and NK doesn't have any suitable bombers.

God I miss my nuclear chemistry classes.

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Gold badge

Who cares about the exact yield?

Point 1: The WW2 weapons were quite possibly over-engineered to make sure they went off. North Korea's are quite possibly under-engineered to conserve their material. As a species, we have learned quite a lot about these bombs in the last 65 years, so it would be naive to assume that scientists in NK know less about these things than the pioneers of the Manhattan project.

Point 2: there has been considerable argument over the actual sizes of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs over the years. Wikipedia says 13kt and 21kt respectively and those are at the bottom end of the scale. Historical estimates have been about double that, so a factor ot two uncertainty for the NK device is no big deal at this stage.

Point 3: If your weapon is measured in kilotons, those underneath might not reckon the exact number is terribly important.

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Anonymous Coward

North Korea The Epitome of Nonsense

Greetings, I do my "first post here" I Probably posted via "bug-me-not" but anyway, a veteran, used to work on F4's down in a little base which used to be called George AFB, and let's just say that our mission back in the 80's would have been the DMZ. Our survival was predicted to be for two weeks to a month at the time and we were part of the RDF (Rapid Deployment Force) e.g. Dragging your mo bag in on short notice. My weapon was a toolbox. (although I had an M1 Carbine at the time in the armory)

NK is the epitome of nonsense. Do they even have a website (I haven't looked) but we are talking about people who were eating people for awhile. Can you imagine how screwed up it must be to live in NK? Is there anything good even coming from there? Goods? Services?

anyways, It's bad elsewhere Our grandmothers are groped at the airports, your cars are tracked in England, we have FISA and patriot act, the shredding of our Constitution, oath of office breaking, and a boatload of nonsense coming down the track via our corrupt senators who willingly refuse to regulate our monetary system, and knowingly support fraud against American taxpayers. America is run by fascists. State Secrets being used to cover-up crimes, felonies, even treason! With the media being a dangerous cult. Our elections rigged via electronic vote tabulation devices.

NK is run by psychopaths. Pretty much all we know as isolation works two ways.

Bush ignored them, when the reality is they were one of the worst threats. Okay Pakistan has nukes now (to India's utter hatred) How'd they do it? Oh that's right an effing TEST NUKE!

Now NK has tested twice. While their rockets fly all over the damn place, seemingly under little or no control. NK seems to have no concept of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction.) I guess when you don't really give a shit about your own life anymore, death becomes less important.

However, with that said, most of us, regardless of religion, from Satanism to Witches to Christians, Catholics, Jewish, Hindu, Sik, Muslim or even Amish - all have one thing in common, we DO care about life.

My first thought was, well hell if the little pricks want to play games and they fuckup, we could simply turn their fucking ass's into GLASS. But then I get to thinking, that shit (nuclear fallout) doesn't just stay in on place, it get's up into the prevailing winds. I don't know much about the weather in NK, or the Geographic map of the area, but it seems that idea sucks since some innocent country down wind might get fucked.

So what are we to do? All the money for war has been stolen. Why the fuck don't we go after those people. The ones who screwed our countries up financially? Take our money back, toss their ass's in jail, an army of lawyers (solicitors) to destroy the Bilderburgs, the Rothchilds etc.

What the fuck good are they? They have run our shit into the ground. they may be officials, but they sure the fuck aren't leaders. And if Death is what they have planned for us, shouldn't the same be planned for them?

I digress.

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Alert

Don't they realize the United States

Could at any time wipe The People's Republic of North Korea off the face of the planet in the blink of an eye. It amazes me that they do not understand that simple fact. Would we? I would hope not but its the truth that we have the capability to do so and they do not should we ever be pushed to that brink. We have subs not far from North Korea that are per say Nuclear Armed and Ready at all times. North Korea really has no allies no matter what they may claim not even China who condemned the test. We could probably take out their entire military machine by conventional warfare means in a few short days if we as a nation/world chose to. Those are the facts. WTH they can't feed their own people and once crap hits the fan those forced to be soldiers would be on the defect ship out.

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Black Helicopters

Never forget the so-called Iraqi WMD.

Do we really know for a fact they didn't just pile up six thousand tons of TNT in an underground cave and blow it all up at once in order to bluff us?

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IT Angle

Can someone tell me...

"US President Barack Obama said there had been "a blatant violation of international law"."

exactly which international law has been broken? As far as I know:

- NK ceeded from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003

- NK anounced that it was commited to disamament in 2005, but only if it received a 'quid pro quo' in exchange, which it never got

- any unilateral movement from the UN can hardly be claimed to be 'international law'....

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Pirate

International law

"US President Barack Obama said there had been "a blatant violation of international law"."

And he must be right. After all the USA are by far the world's leading experts in violating international law.

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Ian

Sigh

"Scientists using these numbers have said they indicate a range of 2 to 8 kilotons for the Nork explosion, with results centring around 4."

Source?

It's all very well attacking other media outlets and saying they're wrong, but really your article is nothing more than speculation as you haven't referenced any evidence backing up your claims.

You tell us the TNT equivalence but don't cite your sources, and The Register and it's bloggers are hardly a trustworthy enough source to just take their word for it.

Slate The Guardian, the BBC or whoever all you want, but at least they cite their sources, rather than disputing them like you do without actually providing any source to backup your counter-claims.

It's also worth pointing out North Korea doesn't need to get their nukes into a warhead, a short boat trip to Japan or a short drive to Seoul hidden amongst their 2 million strong army is really all they need. If it is of a similar yeild to Hiroshima then it's certainly nothing to just brush off, Seoul has a population of 24.5 million, or just over three times that of London. If North Korea did manage to force a nuke the short distance to Seoul amongst their absolutely massive military then there would be a hell of a death toll.

I'm not saying you're wrong Lewis, but you haven't actually provided any evidence to demonstrate that you're right, whilst The Guardian and the BBC have at very least provided a fairly reputable source for their claims. After all, Russia does border North Korea in the very North-East and that's also the area of the country the test was carried out, the Russians are perhaps better placed than anyone to know what kind of explosion went off due to them having both the equipment and the location. China is similarly placed, but may not have the equipment to accurately measure as well as Russia.

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Anonymous Coward

Re WMD & Market?

> Seriously though, if WE can blow up the world 20 times over then

> why aren't N Korea allowed a few little fireworks?"

Cos they're frigging bonkers.

>Why in the world would you buy from North Korea when Pakistan has a proven product?

I think that's where NK got it's nukes from in the first place.

Given the yield it could be a fake, up to about 5 kilotons, it's not hard to imagine NK actually piling up 5000 tons of TNT to give the impression they've got a nuke.

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Black Helicopters

Does anyone remember....

the Ryongchong disaster? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryongchon_disaster

Could it be that the trains carrying massive amounts of explosive material were originally destined for a 'fake' nuclear test?

fill a mine full of ammonium nitrate, light blue touchpaper and get away. Then try and convince the world that you are a nuclear power....

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Anonymous Coward

@Dave Murray

Surely a "stern letter" is called for.

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Thumb Up

Time to watch...

Team America again...

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Anonymous Coward

@Kirk

Unlikely, very unlikely.

A conventional invasion would just be another Vietnam, and probably worse, along with the certain knowledge that as soon as an American soldier sets foot in Pyongyang then NK will set off all their fissile material in a scorched-earth sort of way. China might be less than happy about a US occupation of their close neighbour.

The US couldn't conventionally bomb them into submission, it would be too expensive, take too long, be too ineffectual and the films of the masses of dead civilian women and children would not go down well. Plus it would be possible that NK would try to sail a nuke into Tokyo harbour or similar.

The US couldn't nuke them into submission, the rest of the world would be less than happy about that. Given NK's proximity to China the Chinese government might be less than chuffed with the possibility of all that nice fall-out. China, sadly do have useful working effective nukes.

So, although there is definitely truth in the statement: "[The US] Could at any time wipe The People's Republic of North Korea off the face of the planet in the blink of an eye" it is a reality that the US would not do so And Kim-Il-Jong-Il-Jong (or whichever one it is these days) well knows that.

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Pirate

The world turned upside down,

One of the many bad things to come out of the Iraq war is that any time America says that a state is potentially dangerous the message boards 'tards believe the opposite to be true and that America is only saying such things to advance their own interest. Easier to ignore the UN, China, and Russia being in agreement with America on this than to actually have to think about something, eh?

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Lots and lots of bubblewrap

A 5kT nuclear explosion is not the same as 5,000 tonnes of explosives going "Bang!" A nuclear test explosion is a lot "sharper" than chemical energy release and this has a noticeable effect on the seismic shockwaves detected around the world. I expect there are a lot of seismic detectors positioned by interested parties as close to the North Korean borders as possible but their data will not be made public.

More interesting is the possibility of a "bubblewrap" test where the device is suspended in a large chamber partially filled with water. The resulting seismic energy detected by outside interests would be reduced and only someone with instrumentation in the test chamber itself would know what the true device yield was.

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Thumb Down

Team America?

Last time Team America got involved in North Korea, the North was handing the combined US/SK team an ass wooping, until MacArthurs brilliant idea to send some of Team USA up the sidelines to Inchon before reentering the field of play stopped total disaster. He then proceeded to march almost all the way to a touchdown at the NK end before half of Team China poured across the border and invaded the pitch, sending them all back to the halfway line

Team Americas current plan seems to be to hope there are enough mines on the half way line to blow all of Team Korea into orbit BEFORE they start playing....

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Pirate

RE:Anonymous Coward 26th May 2009 12:01 GMT

Seriously though, if WE can blow up the world 20 times over then why aren't N Korea allowed a few little fireworks?

Because our governments are responsible with them, like not selling them to anyone with a suitcase containing $50 million in used bills

There again, North Korea could be crazy enough to lob one over the border at a US base just to see what would happen.

As a PS, you could always check the North Korean news website for just how NK views its nearest neighbours.

And then you'll worry.

especially if you are South Korean or Japanese

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Silver badge

@john70...

Dude! You are way to much into the puppet sex aren't you?

C'mon, lets get real.

Its very plausible that the NKs did set off a couple of kilo-tons of TNT, or its equivalent in exposives and not a nuclear device.

The other thing is that Norht Korea is a hurting pup of a country where they are trying to use their nuke status as a bargaining chip to get more aid out of the west.

And yes, not only can the US bomb NK back to the Stone Age (which might be an improvement) but so to could France, UK, Russia, China and even maybe India.

Thats the problem with nuclear weapons. Its one club that every country wants to join, yet membership carries a high price tag for a weapon you'll never use.

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Alert

delivery options - who needs rockets ?

19 kilotons could wreck the centre of quite a big city and a ground level explosion could make the site a cancer hazard for years afterwards. Who cares whether they can put it into a missile ? The idea that they need to do this to be effective is just a budget plug for the rocket science lobby whose career prospects will not be enhanced if politicians consider the well known and obvious fact that a standard shipping container can be delivered anywhere and anytime. When a terrorist group has the capacity to do a NBC attack the delivery vehicle is more likely to be a shipping container on the back of a lorry or on a ship that can make it into an inner city port than a name your range missile.

So the real question is could they get this one into a shipping container, and if they could, what is to prevent it getting to its intended destination and detonating there ? And if they can what do they gain by miniaturising the thing enough to put it onto a rocket propelled missile ?

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Ian

@ AC, RE: Ryongchon

That was the theory for the last test but as Lewis quite rightly noted there are other giveaways such as atmospheric tests and such that can determine the type of detonation and last time it was confirmed to indeed by nuclear.

I don't think there's much question that NK is capable of nuclear detonations now, the real question is how much of a risk that is - would they really use them on SK? Can they really weaponise them or are they only able to detonate them with a massive amount of supporting equipment that you can't reasonably transport in a truck or boat?

We should also be asking how many they have, the suggestion was they only have enough weaponised materials for a handful of nukes, if they've now used 2 of those up then they may be running low depending on whether they have access to more or the materials to produce more.

It could be that NK realises with the sanctions they're pretty much at the limits of what they can do and so are just detonating them to look scary when perhaps their leadership is just fizzling out.

It's hard to know if Kim Jong-Il is even alive, he hasn't been seen for months and the last photos of him were proven to be photoshopped, it's almost certain he's at least incapacitated if not dead and these are effectively the actions of a headless chicken spending it's dying moments flapping like crazy, the question is whether it goes out with a bank or just collapses from the inside.

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Boffin

If only they had said it was just a natural earth quake. Everyone would have been happy.

Looks like an earthquake sequence to me:

24May2009 06:49:25.9 42.1S 88.2E 33 mb=5.0 A*EMS SOUTHEAST INDIAN RIDGE

24May2009 06:49:20.9 42.1S 88.4E 10 mb=5.3 M*GSR SOUTHEAST INDIAN RIDGE

25May2009 00:54:40.9 41.3N 129.1E 0 mb=5.0 M*GSR NORTH KOREA

25May2009 00:54:42.4 41.3N 129.1E 10 mb=5.1 M*GSR NORTH KOREA

25May2009 19:59:31.5 52.8N 159.2E 80 mb=4.8 A*EMS OFF EAST COAST OF Kamchatka

25May2009 19:59:24.7 52.8N 159.9E 50 mb=5.0 M*GSR OFF EAST COAST OF Kamchatka

Lots more pairings on here:

http://www.seismo.ethz.ch/redpuma/redpuma_ami_list.html

Something for the weakened:

http://groups.google.com/group/uk.sci.weather/browse_frm/thread/f947fe36d51d567e#

http://my.opera.com/Weatherlawyer/blog/2009/05/22/24th-may-12-11?cid=7764607#comment7764607

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@ Anonymous Coward @ Ken Hagan

'Do we really know for a fact they didn't just pile up six thousand tons of TNT in an underground cave and blow it all up at once in order to bluff us?'

That is a possibility with these relatively (and I stress the word RELATIVELY) small yields. It's a fine art to distinguish one of these blasts from an earthquake when you don't know the geology of the region in any detail, let alone the cause.

The previous NK test vented some of its fission products into the atmosphere and they were picked up by the Americans and Japanese, so we know they did detonate a nuke before - we even know a little bit about how it was made and what sort of technology was being used.

So you can bet lots of planes with sticky bits of paper* hanging out of them are flying over the Sea of Japan right now in the hope of picking up something. The USAF has its Constant Phoenix which you can read about here: http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=192

* Okay, really high tech sticky bits of paper if it makes you happy.

And Ken makes some good points.

'The WW2 weapons were quite possibly over-engineered to make sure they went off. North Korea's are quite possibly under-engineered to conserve their material. As a species, we have learned quite a lot about these bombs in the last 65 years, so it would be naive to assume that scientists in NK know less about these things than the pioneers of the Manhattan project.'

The Little Boy bomb was hugely over-engineered to guarantee that it would explode - it used more than 1 critical mass of uranium to make the big bang and a flash. The US was so confident the uranium cannon would work they didn't test it. The US built about 80 Little Boy type weapons in the immediate aftermath of WW2 until the superior implosion bombs started to be mass produced. The only country to replicate it was South Africa which built a handful of weapons in the 1980s and 90s before dismantling them with the fall of apartheid. SA wanted to avoid an obvious plutonium enrichment program and had plenty of experience with enriching U235 as a cover.

Fat Man was less over-engineered than Little Boy as it used a sub-critical mass of plutonium which was compressed into a super-critical mass by implosion. The US gradually reduced the amount of fissile material in its weapons by levitating the core (giving much more force to the implosion) and boosting the yield with deuterium / tritium. By the late 1950s the US had got a 0.5 kT fission weapon down to 23kg and just 28cm in diameter.

(1950s madness here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device) )

But these were only made possible after a great deal of testing. It seems unlikely that NK could go to a miniaturised warhead so early on its own back. Although the really scary thought is that Pakistan *MIGHT* have provided them with one of their missile warhead designs (in turn obtained from the Chinese).

'Point 2: there has been considerable argument over the actual sizes of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs over the years. Wikipedia says 13kt and 21kt respectively and those are at the bottom end of the scale. Historical estimates have been about double that, so a factor ot two uncertainty for the NK device is no big deal at this stage.'

The Hiroshima blast is the one open to most argument; Nagasaki's yield is pretty locked down as the US did immediate studies of the fireball and the radio isotopes in the plume. The figures for Nagasaki were also cross checked with the near identical data obtained from the Trinity explosion. No such work was done at Hiroshima so the estimated yield was back calculated from casualties and damage on the ground.

HTH.

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Seriously??

Boris the Cockroach@<i>Because our governments are responsible with them, like not selling them to anyone with a suitcase containing $50 million in used bills</i>

Oh - That So: How did that loony-bin ally of ours Pakistan get nucular wepons then? Outsourcing!!

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So what?

I really can't get generate any outrage about all this? Yes it's bad, yes it's the end of the world as we know it. The West spent most of the 50's testing stuff like this and then when the cold war started fizzling out a bit they told the rest of the world that this stuff is too dangerous and no one else is allowed to play. Like some big kids taking the football home when a load of little kids ask to play!

The quicker we get to a Fallout 3 style world the better, can't wait to get my hands on one of those fancy Mini-Nukes, guzzle Nuka-Cola and blast Raiders with my shotgun or home-made junk-shooter!

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@ Jingoistic Americans

Sadly there's no nation so small that you could wipe them out with nukes. Virtually everywhere has neighbours who would be wildly unimpressed with the nuclear fallout in their back gardens and would quickly retalliate. Mutually assured destruction doesn't just work for the big boys.

Also look how far you (and sadly we Brits) got in countries that aren't run on the militaristic scale of North Korea. Last I read Iraq was a fiasco and in Afghanistan the Taliban are actually winning areas back. Meanwhile we two idiot nations might have the best trained (or at least most experienced) armies kicking about at the moment, but we bankrupted ourselves getting there, by giving ourselves the illusion of wealth for the last decade while all the fighting was going on.

This is worring - but should be more worrying to the likes of China, South Korea Japan and other local big boys. Let's let them deal with it this time shall we?

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N. Korea may be firing blanks?

It could be that N. Korea doesn't have real nuke capability and are just detonating very large conventional explosions to get some attention. Since none of these "tests" have amounted to more than a fizzle, they might be attempting a bluff by using a vapor fuel bomb type explosion or a really large pile of TNT.

This is a completely broken government that cannot or will not feed its own people let alone pull the resources together that are necessary to explode something as sophisticated as an A-Bomb.

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