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14 février 2013 4 14 /02 /février /2013 13:48

Nuclear north korea


February 14, 2013: Strategy Page


The newly elected South Korean president made it clear that she would take a hard line against North Korea, not encourage friendlier relations. This includes the new threat of a pre-emptive attack on North Korea if there was any suspicion that the north was going to use nukes. South Korea also confirmed that it had deployed a new cruise missile that can reach targets anywhere in North Korea. This was no surprise as last year it was announced that South Korea would purchase and deploy over a thousand new ballistic and cruise missiles over the next five years. These would be aimed at specific North Korean missile launchers and artillery positions. In the event of a war, the South Korean missiles would be quickly launched and every North Korean missile or artillery weapon eliminated would mean less destruction in South Korean territory. The North Korea plan had always been to start any future war with an enormous bombardment by shells, rockets, and missiles. Most would be aimed at the South Korean capital, and largest city, Seoul.


In the last year the government revealed the existence of more of these locally developed missiles. A year ago South Korea made public the fact that it had a new cruise missile (apparently the Hyunmoo 3) and ballistic missile ready for service. South Korea is usually secretive about its battlefield missiles. Four years ago South Korean media reported that a new cruise missile, with a range of 1,000 kilometers, had secretly entered production in 2008. Called Hyunmoo 3, it has since been superseded by the Hyunmoo 3C missile, which has a range of 1,500 kilometers and is being deployed along the North Korean border, aimed at ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons, and other strategic targets to the north. This is apparently the new cruise missile announced today.


Despite the U.S. refusal to help, South Korea developed a 180 kilometer range ballistic missile (Hyunmoo 1) and a 300 kilometer one (Hyunmoo 2) in the 1980s. Both are about 13 meters (40 feet) long and weigh 4-5 tons. Both of these were based on the design of the U.S. Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile, which South Korea used for many years.  Cruise missiles are simpler technology, and apparently the Hyunmoo 3 is made entirely with South Korean developed components. Like the Tomahawk, Hyunmoo 3 appears to be about 6 meters (19 feet) long, weighs 1.5 tons, has a half ton warhead, and is launched from hidden (in the hills facing North Korea), and probably fortified, containers. North Korea has about 600 ballistic missiles aimed at South Korea.  The longer range of the Hyunmoo 3C enables it to hit any target in North Korea and is apparently intended to knock out transportation and supply targets deep inside North Korea. With a range of 1,500 kilometers the missile could also hit targets in China and Russia.


Two years ago South Korea moved some of its U.S. built ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) guided missiles close to the North Korean border. ATACMS is a 610mm rocket that fits in the same size container that normally holds six 227mm MLRS rockets. The ATACMS version in South Korean service has a range of 165 kilometers. That makes it capable of reaching many targets in North Korea but not the capital (Pyongyang, which is 220 kilometers north of the DMZ). There is a version of ATACMS with a range of 300 kilometers but South Korea does not have any. ATACMS is fired from the American MLRS rocket launcher. South Korea only has 220 ATACMS missiles. All of them have cluster bomb warheads. Half of them are unguided and have a range of 128 kilometers. The others have smaller warheads, GPS guidance, and a range of 165 kilometers. This is apparently the version moved close to the border, in order to make the North Koreans nervous. South Korea originally bought ATACMS in 1998, to have a weapon that could go after distant North Korean artillery and large concentrations of tanks.


North Korea desperately needs operational nuclear weapons because its conventional forces have been falling apart since 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and military and economic aid from Russia ceased. There was not enough money (even though over 30 percent of GDP goes for the military) to maintain and upgrade the million man armed forces. Over the last few years the troops have been getting less food, something unheard of in the past. There is much less fuel for training, which leaves pilots and ship crews inexperienced and much less effective than their South Korean counterparts. Equipment is largely Cold War era stuff, much of it 30-40 years old. Thus the conventional military threat to South Korea (which has greatly modernized its forces in the last two decades) is going, going and now gone. Nuclear weapons restore the North Korean threat to its neighbors. This enables North Korea to demand free food, fuel and other aid. This makes it possible for the North Korea leadership to survive, because at the moment the population is becoming more unruly and hostile to their rulers.


The third North Korean nuclear test was condemned by all (except the usual suspects, like Iran) and especially by China. While always opposed to North Korean nukes, China has never done anything about it. But this time the Chinese publically warned North Korea that if there was another test there would be serious consequences. Cutting off Chinese aid and trade would be catastrophic for the north because China is the major (and practically only) trading partner. North Korea’s illegal exports (weapons, drugs and so on) get out via China. Closing the door on North Korean aid and trade would doom the North Korean government and lead to chaos. The other option is to stage a coup and put pro-China and pro-economic reform people in charge. China has been recruiting a network of pro-China officials in North Korea for years. This is done in secret, and the North Korean leaders have been increasingly active in retiring, demoting or firing anyone who is suspected to be part of this group. Well, not anyone, as that would eliminate a third or more of the ruling class, including many people in the secret police and technical organizations with critical skills. China is expected to support new international sanctions against North Korea. In the past China has not enforced these sanctions. The new ones would be directed at more individual North Koreans, making the sanctions rather more personal.


In the north the big crackdown on illegal cell phone use near the Chinese border has failed. People found ways to defeat the imported cell phone signal detectors (by using an earpiece and walk around or cycle in a crowded areas). Those who are caught find the special secret police personnel brought in for this duty are willing to take a bribe most of the time. So information continues to get in from China and the world. News of Chinese threats over the nuclear tests are causing great unease in the north.


China sent some mobile radiation monitoring teams to the area near its North Korean border to check for any radiation from the recent North Korean underground nuclear test. China already has 25 permanent automated radiation monitoring stations along the border and they showed no increase in radiation.


February 12, 2013: North Korea, as expected, conducted its third nuclear weapons test. This one appears to be seven kilotons and a complete detonation. The last nuclear test was a five kiloton weapon in 2009 and the first one was three years before that. Western intelligence believed that the original North Korean nuclear weapon design was flawed, as the first test was only a fraction of what it should have been (less than a kiloton equivalent in high explosives), and is called in the trade, a "fizzle." The second test was a complete detonation and apparently a much modified version of the original design. Thus North Korea needed more tests to perfect their bomb design and is still years away from a useful nuclear weapon even though the second bomb appeared to be more effective. The third test was considered overdue and that may have been because more time was spent designing and building a smaller device that could fit into a missile warhead. U.S. intelligence agencies have collected air samples (as have most other neighboring countries) from the test which can tell much about the design of the bomb. Results of that analysis may take a week or more to appear.


February 7, 2013: A North Korean propaganda, showing the north using nuclear weapons against the United States, was removed from YouTube because of copyright infringement. The video shows the aftermath of a nuclear strike in what appeared to be an American city. This was a video clip taken from a recent computer game (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3) and the publisher had the video removed for that violation.


January 31, 2013: Google announced more data for its recently announced map of North Korea for Google Maps. North Korea does not release maps, as they are considered military secrets. The Google Maps data was acquired using crowdsourcing and services like Google Earth that constantly produces vast quantities of new data. The new North Korean map shows locations of roads, prison camps and military bases that North Korea had long considered secret information (a common practice in communist dictatorships).


January 30, 2013: South Korea used a locally made rocket to launch its first satellite. In December North Korea launched a satellite, which has been silent since it went up. The South Korean satellite is working perfectly.


North Korea ordered an increased state of military readiness in response to the latest UN sanctions. Movement across the country has been restricted and reservists have been called up. All this is theater to distract people from the fact that they are hungry and there isn’t much heat or electricity. The movement restrictions make it more difficult to move food and fuel to areas where it is most needed.

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20 décembre 2012 4 20 /12 /décembre /2012 08:45

Agni V Launch


December 19, 2012 Vivek Kapur - IDSA COMMENT


In the face of international opposition, North Korea launched a rocket on 12 December 2012 to place a satellite in orbit.1 Its earlier four attempts had all failed; the first of these was in 1998 and the most recent failure was in April 2012.2 The “successful” launch on 12 December 2012 places North Korea among the few nations (United States, Russia, China, Japan, Europe, India, Pakistan and possibly Iran) that possess the ability to build long range ballistic missiles. What has added to international concerns about North Korea’s missile programme is its transfer of missiles banned by multilateral treaties and conventions to countries such as Pakistan and Iran as well as its support for international terrorist groups.3


India has no direct dispute with North Korea and the distance separating the two countries serves to further reduce threat perceptions. India’s interest in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes comes from the reported clandestine co-operation between North Korea, Pakistan and Iran in this regard. There have been persistent reports that North Korea has assisted Pakistan’s missile programme in return for Pakistani assistance with its nuclear weaponisation programme. The current Pakistani ballistic missile capability extends to a reported range capability of about 1500 to 2500 km, which is equivalent to that of the North Korean Taepodong-I missile and its further developments. The test conducted on 12 December 2012 by the Unha-3 rocket gives North Korea a range capability of 5500+km or the equivalent of the Taepodong-II missile.4 India’s Agni-V missile was claimed to have a range of 5500 km and falling into the classification of an ICBM. This is a range capability not currently possessed by Pakistan and one, if inducted by Pakistan from North Korea, would be detrimental for Indian security. Iran has also been suspected of being a recipient of North Korean ballistic missile technology.5 Iran’s acquisition of long range ballistic missile capability from North Korea would further complicate India’s security situation. Beyond this direct impact of North Korean missile proliferation, India, as a responsible member of the international community, has no choice but to support international action and restrictions on countries that act and behave in a manner that is found unacceptable by the rest of the world.


India has ballistic missile armed countries on its Northern as well as Western borders. Further, territorial disputes exist with both of these neighbours. The steady spread of ballistic missile technology to ever more states continues unabated. Although the likelihood is remote presently, there is no guarantee that in the near to medium term future such technology will not be available with more of India’s neighbours. There is also the alarming, but above zero, possibility of ballistic missiles falling into the hands of terrorist groups especially in “failing” or “failed” states such as Pakistan whose military includes several sympathisers of terrorist groups. (Two terrorist organisations, Hamas and Hezbollah, have already demonstrated the ability to obtain and use such weapons – Fajr-5 missiles with ranges of 75 km – against Israel).6 Such developments in its neighbourhood have adverse implications for India.


No country is in a position to be able to control the proliferation of ballistic missile technology all by itself, India included. Even missiles with non-nuclear payloads could be a major threat to India’s security and economy. Hence, if unable to avoid the proliferation of ballistic missiles in South Asia, India would have no choice but to work towards countering this threat. Nuclear armed ballistic missile attacks would be countered by India’s declared Nuclear Doctrine and executed by the Indian strategic forces. The challenge here would lie in dealing with situations where the country responsible for the launch of a nuclear attack cannot be easily identified, as in the case of missiles launched from sea.


There are two possible solutions to countering the conventional payload ballistic missile threat. The first would be to harden all population centres and other vital facilities against such attacks. Given the very large number of these and the ever increasing range and accuracy of ballistic missiles available with an ever increasing group of countries, this is unlikely to be feasible or even prove sufficient. The second option would be to develop a viable Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is already working on a ‘only terminal stage intercept’ BMD system, which has achieved several notable successes during its trials to intercept target ballistic missiles in the exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric stages. Ballistic missile proliferation in India’s neighbourhood requires the development of a more capable BMD system.


While the DRDO’s BMD project is reportedly proceeding well and should be available for initial deployment in the near future, it is only a terminal phase system as of now. There is a need to extend the current capability towards the ability to engage ballistic missiles during their mid-course and boost stages as well as during the terminal stage of their flight. DRDO may need to explore air-based, Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) and Electromagnetic (EM) gun based solutions in addition to its current land based ‘anti-missile missile’ BMD system to achieve a more robust and capable BMD system or a system of systems capable of reliable boost phase, mid-course phase and terminal phase ballistic missile intercept and destruction.


The proliferation of ballistic missile technology has continued despite international efforts to curtail it. This proliferation poses threats to India’s security. India may face a conventional as well as nuclear ballistic missile threat in the near to medium term future. The possible spread of these ballistic missile capabilities has the potential to further complicate India’s security situation. India is preparing to deal with the nuclear ballistic missile threat from its potential adversaries through its nuclear doctrine and nuclear forces. However, the increasing ballistic missile threat would require a combination of developing a full spectrum (boost phase, mid-course phase and terminal phase) BMD capability. The current DRDO BMD programme needs to be extended to attain such a capability.

  1. 1. “UN condemns North Korea over rocket launch”, http://www.dw.de/un-condemns-north-korea-over-rocket-launch/a-16450004, accessed on 17 Dec 2012.
  2. 2. “UN Security Council condemns North Korea rocket launch”, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20697922, accessed on 13 Dec 2012.
  3. 3. See, http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iran/missile/overview.html and http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/pakistan/missile/hatf-5.htm accessed on 17 Dec 2012.
  4. 4. Markus Schiller, “Characterizing the North Korean Nuclear Missile Threat”, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2012/RAND_TR..., Pp 11, accessed on 13 Dec 2012.
  5. 5. “N. Korea rocket launch draws more worry than Iran's”, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46988250/ns/world_news-asia_pacific/t/n-kore..., accessed on 13 Dec 2012.
  6. 6. “Iran supplied Hamas with Fajr-5 missile technology”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/21/iran-supplied-hamas-missile-..., accessed on 17 Dec 2012.
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3 mai 2012 4 03 /05 /mai /2012 17:23
North Korea Ready for 3rd Nuclear Test: Expert

May. 2, 2012 Defense News (AFP)


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has apparently finished preparations for a third nuclear test and is awaiting a political decision to go ahead, a South Korean nuclear expert said May 2.


The expert also said the communist state is likely to use highly enriched uranium (HEU) for any test, and it may have produced enough of it to make between three and six bombs in addition to its plutonium stockpile.


There has been widespread speculation the North will stage a test following its failed launch of a long-range rocket last month. The launch drew condemnation from the United Nations Security Council.


Similar condemnation of launches in 2006 and 2009 was followed by atomic weapons tests. Satellite photos of the Punggye-ri test site in the northeast show work in progress.


“The North has apparently finished technical preparations for a third nuclear test. What is left now is a political decision,” the expert told journalists on condition of anonymity.


South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are closely monitoring activities at Punggye-ri, he said, adding some 3,000 people were involved in the North’s nuclear program.


The North shut down its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon in 2007 as part of an international disarmament deal, which it later abandoned.


In 2010 it disclosed to visiting U.S. scientists a uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon with 2,000 centrifuges.


The scientists have said the plant, ostensibly to feed a light water reactor for power generation, could easily be reconfigured to make weapons-grade material.


The North is thought to have produced enough plutonium for six to eight weapons before the shutdown.


The South Korean expert said 2,000 centrifuges would be capable of producing 88 pounds of HEU every year. Assuming the enrichment plant became operational in 2009, it could have produced enough HEU for three to six bombs.


He said analysis of xenon isotopes, which reach the atmosphere two to four days after a test, could establish whether the device was a plutonium or an HEU bomb.

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29 septembre 2011 4 29 /09 /septembre /2011 05:20



September 27, 2011: STRATEGY PAGE


South Korean officials are alarmed after discovering that the navy has only been able to detect 30 percent of the North Korean subs they come across. Moreover, North Korea is using its submarines more frequently in training (for sneaking people into South Korea) exercises. North Korea has a fleet of over 80 mini-subs, plus about 24 older Russian type conventional boats (based on late-World War II German designs, as adapted for Russian service as the Whiskey and Romeo class). China helped North Korea set up its own submarine building operation, which included building some of the large Romeo class subs. North Korea got the idea for minisubs from Russia, which has had them for decades. North Korea has developed several mini-sub designs, most of them available to anyone with the cash to pay. The North Korean minisubs range in size from 76 to 300 tons displacement. Over a dozen of these small subs are equipped to fire torpedoes.


The use of a North Korea midget sub to sink a South Korean corvette in March, 2010, forced the United States, and South Korea, to seriously confront the problems involved in finding these small subs in coastal waters. This was a difficult task, because the target is small, silent (moving using battery power) and in a complex underwater landscape, that makes sonar less effective.


There are some potential solutions. After the Cold War ended in 1991, the U.S. recognized that these coastal operations would become more common. So, in the 1990s, the U.S. developed the Advanced Deployable System (ADS) for detecting non-nuclear submarines in coastal waters. The ADS is portable, and can quickly be flown to where it is needed. ADS is believed to be in South Korea. ADS basically adapts the popular Cold War SOSUS system (many powerful listening devices surrounding the major oceans, and analyzing the noises to locate submarines) developed by the United States.


ADS consists of battery powered passive (they just listen) sensors that are deployed by ship along the sea bottom in coastal waters. A fiber optic cable goes from the sensors (which look like a thick cable) back to shore, where a trailer containing computers and other electronics, and the ADS operators, runs the system. ADS has done well in tests, but it has only recently faced the North Korean mini-subs. There, it was discovered how little capability South Korea warships had to detect the North Korean submarines. Moreover, there is not enough ADS gear to cover all the coastal areas where North Korean subs operate. South Korea is hustling to improve its anti-submarine capabilities. But decades of neglect will take years to recover from.


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