Friday, April 12, 2013

North Korean nuke missiles CAN reach us

James Clapper, head of the American intelligence community, told the House intel committee yesterday that North Korea may have much more formidable nuclear capabilities than we had previously been led to believe. Bottom line: The North Koreans have made a nuke small enough to ride atop a ballistic missile.

Which means they can hit targets in the United States.

The information comes from a DIA report produced last March -- although it seems not to have circulated widely until recently. The NYT and other sources stress that North Korea's nuclear missile capability remains untested, and the targeting is likely to be poor.

These words do not make one rest easy.
The assessment’s existence was disclosed Thursday by Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, three hours into a budget hearing of the House Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. General Dempsey declined to comment on the assessment because of classification issues.

But late Thursday, the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., released a statement saying that the assessment did not represent a consensus of the nation’s intelligence community and that “North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile.”
The NYT raises one important caveat: The Defense Intelligence Agency, which issued this report, was also quite insistent (a little more than a decade ago) that Iraq had WMDs. If the DIA got it spectacularly wrong then, should we presume that they have it wrong now?

No. Ten years ago, the situation was different. The DIA "got it wrong" because the administration wanted them to get it wrong.

As the Downing Street Memo made clear, intelligence was being fixed around the policy in the run-up to the Iraq debacle. Having decided on war, the administration urged compliant sectors of the intelligence community -- in particular, the DIA -- to use information from sources like "Curveball," who told the Americans what they wanted to hear. The CIA played the WMD game somewhat more cautiously, always hedging and qualifying their statements, trying to placate the President while simultaneously creating a paper trail that wouldn't look so bad in the eyes of history. That's why the neocons preferred to deal with the military intelligence services. The hawks even set up their own brand-new intelligence shops within the Pentagon, which were little more than propaganda/disinfo units. 

Could a similar "fixed intel" situation be happening here? I strongly doubt it

There's one key difference between then and now. In 2002 and 2003, you didn't really need the Downing Street Memo to know that Dubya wanted war; all you needed to do was turn on the teevee or fire up the internet. The throb of those pounding war drums drowned out all other sounds. America's reporters, pols and pundits seemed to get an almost sexual thrill from the prospect of battle and conquest. All of Washington imitated that famous scene in Duck Soup: "To war, to war, to war we're going to go -- hidee hidee hidee hidee hidee hidee ho!"

There's no hidee-ho-ing right now. Quite the opposite.

Obama has taken steps to alleviate tensions. Astonishingly, the administration has scrubbed a missile test while telling the North Koreans that they can run tests of their own, as long as the missile doesn't head toward the U.S. or an allied nation. The President looks like someone trying very hard not to seem as scared as he really is. And South Korean President President Park Geun-hye is doing a similar act.

Although some of my readers will insist otherwise, Obama is not Bush, Kim Jong-Un is not Saddam Hussein, and 2013 is not 2003. Yes, we must learn from history -- but not from an overly simplistic reading of history. If the usual cable news war-whoopers were whooping for war, I'd say that the neo-cons were up to their old tricks again. But I don't hear any whooping.

Strike that: I do hear war-whoops -- but not from Americans. Those sounds are coming from North Korea.
CNN’s Jim Clancy reports from the region that the state television broadcaster has begun a propaganda campaign to prepare Pyongyang’s subjects for war, which sounds as though Kim Jong-un has something else in mind than a simple missile test. ”War is just a matter of time,” North Koreans were told today, and that “no one [in the South] will live to regret anything”
And then there's this assessment from The Daily Beast:
One piece of evidence to support the view that North Korea can produce a nuclear warhead comes from A.Q. Khan, the man considered to be the father of the Pakistani nuclear program. In correspondences with a former British journalist, Simon Henderson, first disclosed by The Washington Post in 2009, Khan said that during a visit to a North Korean nuclear facility in 1999, he was shown boxes of components for three finished nuclear warheads that could be assembled within an hour.

Henderson, now an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, “Khan holds the abilities of North Korean scientists and engineers in high regard. Although lacking the best technical equipment, they are well trained and determined. I fear Khan was telling the truth about what he saw in North Korea in 1999.”
Charles Ferguson, who is the president of the Federation of American Scientists, has said that he has seen "no evidence" that the North Koreans have created a missile capable of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere after a jaunt in space. But since Ferguson almost certainly has not seen the DIA report referenced above, how much comfort can we find in his words?
B has made me think again about this issue. It seems to me that actually the key point is that American policy has changed. It seems to me that Washington sees an opportunity. That the success is an opportunity to apply pressure with the hope that the regime falls. The Axis of Evil is another name for places which resist American policy. Obama couldnt resist the opportunity to bring about regime change. An opportunity for a legacy.

So the provocation is coming from the US. That said, its important to know what the NKs can do. But whenever I read an American statement about their capabilities I see it as a further attempt to justify belicose actions, like the moving of 2 missile destroyers to the coast of NK. Or overflying them with a B2.

The US is applying the pressure and this latest report is just more of the same. I think it is a genuine NIE, but its for our consumption. Its not news. And the key point is that the delivery system is NOT reliable. Would you use one of your 6 nukes in a way which might waste them?

If possible I would like to add something.

A defense intelligence estimate is the summary of the state of all knowledge within the intelligence agencies. Its the assumed status quo. So it says they have missiles which can reach the US then thats the US governments official position so to speak.

However Alaska and Hawaii are US territory. And the key the reliability of the delivery. It is not a reliable system. They might just hit the pacific.

For me, whats striking is the timing. The administration could have declassified this NIE anytime. But they chose now.

A change of power is the obvious time to effect regime change. If you apply enough pressure the regime will fracture. Ok it might fracture. Either way, now is the time.

Cui Bono. If you are a new dictator, do you seek to bed down your power a bit before you pick a fight with your main threat? Or do you pick a fight hoping to cement power at home? Im not sure but it seems to be that Kim has less to win and more to lose. The US more to win and less to lose.

Does this mean a preemptive strike by the NKoreans is out of the question? No but I think it unlikely. However even thought the yen has dropped a long way, I think now is not the time to visit Tokyo. Its better to burn up, than to fade away.

"Justify bellicose actions"? WHY?

Harry, I think that this is wrong-headed thinking. Much of my reasoning is above: I just don't see any neo-con war-whooping. I see a lot of people on all sides who just wish the North Korean issue would go away. Even the Chinese seem to wish that. There's no desire to conquer a half-peninsula that has no oil and does not present any threat to Israel.

An untested, unreliable nuke missile system can still raise holy hell.
"In another sign of the administration’s deep concern over the release of the assessment, the Pentagon press secretary, George Little, issued a statement that sought to qualify the conclusion from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has primary responsibility for monitoring the missile capabilities of adversary nations but which a decade ago was among those that argued most vociferously — and incorrectly — that Iraq had nuclear weapons."

A bit of redemptive self-awareness from NYT. I realize human intel is probably not a feature of this info, but AQ Khan? How about something from 'Curveball'.

The NK's may indeed have some capability, but what is up with sending an E-6 'Looking Glass' to the region?

This command and control center is designed to operate effectively anywhere in the world. Why send it to the region unless it's more of a show trial?

The Neocons don't have an interest in this for the reasons you stated Joe, but that doesn't mean there is no hidden agenda.


I still think the
In defense of the DIA, I think the NY Times claim here, that the DIA was among the most vociferous proponents of the claim that Iraq had NUCLEAR WEAPONS (not simply WMD, as Joe slightly misquotes the Times as saying herein), is mistaken.

They must be flashing back on their own Judy Miller's 'reporting,' I think.

For the real DIA reports c. '02-'03 supported the WMD doubters, by stating the DIA had NO reliable evidence (at all) of any WMD caches or deployment (let alone nuclear weapons?!!?), and also by the DIA staff report that debunked the identification of mobile germ or chemical warfare units.

The main DOD supporter of the WMD claims was Rumsfeld's own rump Office of Special Plans (OSP) run by Doug Feith. The DIA was pressured into saying that Iraq HAD pursued such programs (true in the past, in the '90s), and they were not claiming none existed now (meaning then), but their report of 'no reliable evidence' substantially discomfited those advocating a clear and present danger from them.

I think even NK's possession of reliable nuclear weaponry is doubtful. The alleged kilotonnage yield was remarkably small (fractions of the Hiroshima yield), and consistent with a failed, dudded weapon, or even the use of conventional high explosives with a dirty bomb component to provide the nuclear signature.

I think these claims constitute a bank shot at Iran, which has the accurate intermediate missile capability sans the operational nuclear weapon. With even conventional warheads, those Iranian missiles threaten Israel with nuclear contamination should they target Dimona or other areas with nuclear materials or waste by-products.



I dont possess special information. My opinion was formed from b's comment, and coming across a longer form piece by b elsewhere.

Also a piece on Counterpunch that I cant find now which detailed the military build up that is going on.

My working hypothesis now is that the US is stiring things up. But it is only that. A working hypothesis.

I think you were right the first time. They will use other delivery systems. They wouldnt attempt to use the missiles to deliver a payload untill they work. What good would it do to drop a missile with a payload in the pacific that you couldnt do without a payload. Even if you hit the coast of alaska with the nuke how would that help N.Korea?

I agree that the N.Koreans are genuinely spooked. I now think they have good reason to be. I wouldnt argue with people who think they might pull the trigger first. I am merely saying they have good reason to be jumpy. Indeed Washington wants them jumpy!

Since Obama is fond of blowing up wedding parties with his drones, I figure if anybody sneaks a nuke into the Big PX it will be Pakistan
Op-ed piece by Jeremi Suri in the NYT, urging the US government to bomb North Korea now. Suri is a professor in Texas, formerly of Yale and Stanford.

The article contains the amazing statement that "The North Korean government would certainly view the American strike as a provocation, but it is unlikely that Mr. Kim would retaliate by attacking South Korea".

This is supported by a twofold 'argument'. First, the Chinese government wouldn't allow such a response. Oh really? Second, it probably wouldn't happen anyway, because it would be suicidal. Given the grounds that Suri is advancing in support of a US attack, his logic here is somewhat ridiculous.

The rest of the article comes with phrases such as "not inconceivable", "escalate", "save face", "establish clear and reasonable limits on future belligerence" (sic!), "best of bad options", and "uneasy peace". It's obvious the learned professor isn't on top of his material, and don't got no clue 'bout military stuff such as stategy and the balance of power. Only an idiot would predict that a US attack on North Korea probably wouldn't provoke a North Korean attack on South Korea.

Apparently "Beijing will continue to worry about the United States extending its influence up to the Chinese border. If armed hostilities erupt, President Obama should be prepared for direct and close consultations with Chinese leaders to negotiate a postwar settlement, in a larger multinational framework, that respects Beijing’s legitimate security interests in North Korea."

That's direct and close, not through intermediaries and from afar. So don't bother the Swiss, and never mind the air fuel costs. I suppose those who believe in the power of empty-headed platitudes might be impressed with this.

But enough mockery.

The NYT has published a piece calling for a US attack right now, without further ado, against North Korea, a nuclear-armed state. And by my reckoning, the Day of the Sun begins in 29 hours time.
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