Report: Mushroom Cloud Seen After N.Korea Explosion
Sat Sep 11, 2004 11:33 PM ET
SEOUL (Reuters) - A mushroom cloud up to 2.5 miles in diameter was seen after an explosion in a remote area of North Korea near the border with China, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday, quoting sources in Beijing.
The South Korean news agency said Thursday's blast in Kimhyungjik county in Yanggang province appeared to much worse than a train explosion that killed at least 170 people in April.
South Korean intelligence officials said they were monitoring the report, but declined detailed comment.
Report: Major Explosion in North Korea
Sunday September 12, 2004 4:01 AM
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - A large explosion occurred in the northern part of North Korea on an important anniversary of the communist regime, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Sunday.
Citing an unidentified source in Beijing, Yonhap said the explosion happened on Thursday in Yanggang province near the border with China. The damage and crater left by the explosion in Kim Hyong Jik county was big enough to be noticed by a satellite, the source said.
North Korea was founded on Sept. 9, 1948. Leader Kim Jong Il uses the occasion to stage performances and other events to bolster loyalty among the impoverished North Korean population.
Experts have speculated that North Korea might use a major anniversary to conduct a nuclear-related test, though there was no immediate indication that the reported explosion on Thursday was linked to Pyongyang's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
On April 22, train wagons at a railway station exploded in the North Korean town of Ryongchon, killing 160 people and injuring an estimated 1,300, according to some estimates. The blast was believed to have been sparked by a train laden with oil and chemicals that hit power lines.
The source that told Yonhap about the explosion last week said it was reportedly bigger than the train explosion in Ryongchon.
Reports May Indicate N.Korea Nuclear Test-NY Times
Sat Sep 11, 2004 10:43 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Bush administration has received recent intelligence reports that some experts believe could indicate North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear weapons test explosion, The New York Times reported in Sunday editions.
Citing senior officials with access to the intelligence, the newspaper said the reports, sent to President Bush and his top advisers, describe a confusing series of actions by North Korea. A senior scientist who assesses nuclear intelligence said the evidence was not conclusive, but potentially worrisome.
The Times said U.S. intelligence agencies appeared divided about the significance of North Korea's recent actions, although they were viewed as serious enough to warrant a warning to the White House.
Such a test, if successful, would put an end to the debate over whether North Korea has a rudimentary nuclear arsenal. Some analysts fear a test could change the balance of power in Asia, and perhaps spawn a new nuclear arms race there, the Times said.
Senior officials who spoke to the Times on Friday and Saturday were reluctant to provide details of the new activities, but said some of the information appeared to have come from satellite intelligence. One official called the intelligence "a series of indicators of increased activity that we believe would be associated with a test," saying that the "likelihood" of a North Korean test had risen significantly in the past four weeks.
According to the Times, that changed assessment led to the decision to update Bush.
The activities included the movement of materials around several suspected test sites, including one near a location where intelligence agencies reported last year that conventional explosives were being tested that could compress a plutonium core and set off a nuclear explosion, the Times said. But it added that officials have not seen the classic indicators of preparations at a test site, in which cables are laid to measure an explosion in a deep test pit.
Officials said if North Korea proceeded with a test, it would probably be with a plutonium bomb, perhaps one fabricated from the 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods the North has boasted in the past few months have been reprocessed into bomb fuel, the newspaper reported.
One senior intelligence official noted that preparations the North knew could be detected by the United States might be a scare or a negotiating tactic by North Korea, while other officials speculated a test could be intended to influence the U.S. presidential election in November.
South Korea and the United States, along with China, Russia and Japan, are trying to restart stalled six-party discussions with North Korea to resolve the nuclear security crisis gripping the divided peninsula and the region.
The nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002 when U.S. diplomats said Pyongyang had admitted pursuing a covert uranium enrichment program, in addition to a plutonium program that was suspended as part of a 1994 accord.
North Korea has since denied the existence of the uranium program but has unfrozen its plutonium program. U.S. officials say it may have enough nuclear material for eight bombs.
"The pacifist is as surely a traitor to his country and to humanity as is the most brutal wrongdoer."
~ Theodore Roosevelt.