What's happening at the
Sunday 18 Feb 2018 | 12:27 | SYDNEY
Sunday 18 Feb 2018 | 12:27 | SYDNEY

Email of the day: Where are Pyongyang's nukes?



17 March 2008 10:45

In response to my recent post about North Korean denuclearization, reader David Callard comments:

I have long wondered if there might not be a third possibility to those raised by Raoul Heinrichs; that the North Korean regime has some ultra-secret facility buried in a mountain somewhere that we have failed to detect, despite our best surveillance activities. Is this even a remote possibility?

Having been wrong on Iraq, Iran, and perhaps on North Korea’s uranium program, the US intelligence community’s track record on clandestine nuclear programs does not inspire confidence. Though I am in no position to know about the existence of secret facilities, I doubt very much, given North Korean concealment efforts, whether the US intelligence community could reliably account for the exact whereabouts of all the fissile material that is known to exist, let alone the nuclear devices that Pyongyang may possess. Herein lies the ‘Six Party’ strategic dilemma.

Even if Pyongyang does eventually declare and dismantle most of its nuclear infrastructure, could we ever really be confident that it has not held on to a handful of nuclear weapons as an insurance policy? Maybe, but we wouldn’t want to bet Seoul on it.

Insofar as a successful outcome at the Six Party talks may inhibit Pyongyang from further bolstering its nuclear arsenal, it is clearly a worthwhile pursuit. But given the uncertainty surrounding the true size and composition of the North Korean nuclear arsenal, and the importance that Pyongyang has historically attached to the acquisition of nuclear weapons, we need to come to terms with the fact that, whatever the diplomatic outcome, secret facilities or not, North Korea will almost surely retain its de facto nuclear status for the foreseeable future.

You may also be interested in...