I maintain my skepticism on the technological capability of KJI's highly isolated team. Unlike the Indian and the Pakistani in 1998, or even the Chinese in 1964, N Korea scientists were isolated for more than half a decade from the rest of the world (except for a Soviet aided small facility in Yangban since mide 1960s, which is mainly for preaceful use). The Chinese team, when the research started in late 1950s, was only isolated for less than 10 years, with a few top scientists educated and worked in top US facilities. The Chinese also has a much larger talent pool, given its population then of 600M vs 22M of DPRK today.
My skepticism was confirmed when the test on October 9 turned out to be either a fizzle or fake. Even with the recent detection of radioactive sources by US reconnaissance, NK could have faked the radioactive elements as well, if it chose to do so. A small amount of waste from power plant would generate a large enough sample to fake the radioactive traces if it was indeed a chemical explosion. Although my personal opinion is that to fake a 500 ton equivalent blast is a non-trivial task which involves the simultaneous detonation of many tonnes of explosives (may be much smaller than 500 as it could be non-TNT, but should be near the 100 nevertheless), and I think it is probably more challenge for KJI to fake the blast.
I am more skeptical of the speculation of a second test, for the following reasons
- NK only has limited amount of Plutonium. Of the amount (US estimated by US intelligence) equivalent of 4-10 bombs (I tend to believe the low side limit), one is already gone (even if it is a fizzle, NK should have used the amount for one full bomb and the rest of the Plutonium are forever wasted and buried under Mantapsan). NK cannot afford to waste another 2 kilo's of Pu on a second test.
Although NK has uranium mines, the alleged bomb is believed to be Plutonium based. Suffice it to say that the Plutonium enrichment and explosion technology is significantly different from that of Uranium and that it is non-trivial to enrich the required material even if NK has natural uranium mines -- (update) Experts said the use of plutonium to make the bomb was important because it suggested that North Korea probably had only one nuclear program mature enough to produce weapons."This is good news because we have a reasonably good idea of how much plutonium they have made," said Siegfried Hecker, the former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and now a visiting professor at Stanford University.
- Whether the blast on October 9 was a fizzle or a success (if not fake), a sensible approach would be to thoroughly analyze the data before conducting the second test. With the dated computational technological in NK, it is unlikely for it to gain new knowledge by testing a second bomb until at least 0.5-1 year later
- As many have suspected, the October 9 blast serves more as a political statement (and diplomatic gesture), in KJI's weird mind, than a technological demonstration. I do not see any incremental impact a second test could have served him. Instead, if the second test fails again, it would be immense embarrassment for Kim. (the first test could still be called a success since the chain reaction did started, even though it did not sustain. But if the second test turns out to be a fizzle again, then it certainly covers no new ground)
I was, of course, trying to reason with KJI. As we know, rationality does not necessarily go with his mind. If I am wrong, do not blame me, it just proves KJI is more insane than we have thought.