Sunday night's murmuring about a faked nuclear test by Kim Jong-Il (the Corky of international supervillains) is getting louder. Was it just a mass of TNT piled up Wile E. Coyote-style? It doesn't look like there will be a clear answer anytime soon:
"There are lots of questions about this test," said Jim Walsh, a nuclear weapons expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who visited North Korea last year. While the tremors detected were within the range of nuclear tests, they were on the lower end, he said.
"It's very unusual for countries that are testing for the first time to have such a small test," Walsh said. "People are going to ask whether this was a failed test—in other words, a fizzle—of a much larger bomb that only half went off, or a fake."
So Kim Jong-Il's petulant campaign for more attention seems likely to go on. In the Washington Times, Bill Gertz says U.S. officials are already writing off the hermit kingdom's seismic hiccup:
U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that seismic readings show that the conventional high explosives used to create a chain reaction in a plutonium-based device went off, but that the blast's readings were shy of a typical nuclear detonation.
"We're still evaluating the data, and as more data comes in, we hope to develop a clearer picture," said one official familiar with intelligence reports.
"There was a seismic event that registered about 4 on the Richter scale, but it still isn't clear if it was a nuclear test. You can get that kind of seismic reading from high explosives."
The underground explosion, which Pyongyang dubbed a historic nuclear test, is thought to have been the equivalent of several hundred tons of TNT, far short of the several thousand tons of TNT, or kilotons, that are signs of a nuclear blast, the official said.
The official said that so far, "it appears there was more fizz than pop."
Because where weapons of mass destruction are concerned, everybody knows unnamed U.S. officials are your top source for solid info…