Wednesday, October 01, 2003

just a bluff?

Given how good we've been at finding other weapons of mass destruction... how do we take this news?

North Korea said Tuesday it was taking "practical measures" to boost its nuclear capabilities, as the United States and South Korea celebrated the 50th anniversary of their military alliance by pledging to keep up their deterrence against the communist North.

A spokesman of North Korea's Foreign Ministry also told its official news agency KCNA that if Washington tries to force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program before it agrees to a nonaggression treaty, it would lead to war.

The North Korean spokesman did not elaborate on the "practical measures," but the claim came as some U.S. intelligence analysts are becoming increasingly concerned that the communist nation may have three, four or even six nuclear weapons instead of the one or two the CIA now estimates.

Can we presume to count hidden nukes? Man... I gotta check those think tanks. OK, here's a promise: my very next post will be a report on the issue of NK capability, which some choose to poo-poo (starving troops, old equipment, poor training, etc.) but others spin as dangerous in more than name only. This isn't to explore the question of whether the US and SK could win a war against NK; it's to gain a better understanding of how costly such a war might be. Because I've now made the promise to make this my very next post, you might not see any motion on my blog for the next couple of days. I'll be reading and compiling.

At this point, my belief remains that you don't underestimate your opponent, even if he really is a wuss. Wusses can do startling things when cornered. Others may think there's no reason for such caution... we'll see. The trick, in researching this question, is to stick to data that are no more than a year or two old. Mid-90s assessments of NK's status and military capability will definitely be outdated, because too much starvation has occurred, and this does affect the picture. But I tend to think that people speculating on starving NK troops are wrong: the food aid, such as it is, is being routed primarily to the fat cats and the military. At this point, that's just an opinion, of course. After I finish my research and post my findings, it'll still just be an opinion, albeit one supported (I hope) by experts. I may turn out to be dead wrong.

To be continued. Meanwhile, here's a VOA article about NK's latest snottiness.

BTW, would the Maximum Leader care to comment on something called the "water theory" of totalitarian leadership, and how it might or might not apply to NK?

UPDATE (OK, so I'm cheating by posting an update): something I found through Aaron Krowne's blog. If you read Thomas St. John's series of articles re: his trip to NK, then you're already familiar with the hall of gifts. I found this article interesting for what it implied about religion in NK-- about what I suspected.

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