Now We’re in the Kimche! Updated at 10:45

Hat tip to commenter “the Conster” for giving us a heads up about reports of a possible North Korean nuclear test. According to the BBC a 5.1 magnitude earthquake has been reported near sites in North Korea that had previously been used for nuclear weapons testing. This was about 30 miles from Punggye-ri, the site of previous nuclear tests and the US Geological Survey is reporting the quake at a depth of 10 kilometers. USGS is also, on the basis of Ambassador Rice’s remarks at the UN earlier this evening, reclassifying it from natural earthquake to man made nuclear event.

Needless to say this will be a fast moving and fluid story, so accounts are likely to change.


The Guardian is reporting that the North Korean government has confirmed its fourth nuclear test conducted earlier today. The justification is its legal right to conduct such tests and an assertion that if the US doesn’t threaten North Korean sovereignty, then North Korea will not need to use nuclear weapons. The hat tip again goes to the Conster.

92 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    Send in Seth Rogan.

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    You need to ask Cole for a raise.

    ETA: Edited subject b/c I thought this was a Betty Cracker post for some reason.

  3. 3

    North Korea says it will make an announcement at 11pm Eastern time.

  4. 4
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that depth estimate get revised. 10km is awfully deep – 1km is more likely.

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: We’re supposed to get paid? Actually, right now I have time to do this stuff as I’m just consulting. I’m expecting start dates for new assignments and new orders in the next few weeks and then things will change a bit for me depending on which assignment I take. Since I can contribute a bit more now, I am. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to come February.

  6. 6
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Wouldn’t surprise me either. Or the BBC put the decimal point in the wrong place.

  7. 7 says:

    So the GOP can now turn to the.’Obama is a crafty but incompetent despotic communist musleemy leader’who is helping North Korea and Iran.

  8. 8

    @Omnes Omnibus: 10 km is the USGS initial placeholder. China and South Korea are reporting zero depth.

  9. 9
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: That makes even more sense.

  10. 10
    JPL says: Well the first time North Korea did this was under Bush, so .. yes

  11. 11
    p.a. says:

    I plead complete ignorance as to whether NK has agreed to no testing. If not, is this a big deal? We know they have it, they test what, every 4 years? And the tests are not atmospheric.

    If they have broken a no-test agreement, what? More sanctions? Do they even care? They’ll just let more of their own people starve.

  12. 12
    Baud says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I don’t know how much I’ll be able to come February.

    No worries. I’m confident the team here can correctly evaluate foreign policy without any expert help. How hard can it be?

  13. 13
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    Oh, for goodness’ sake. I leave the country for 36 hours and the Commies are running amok.

  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @p.a.: They’re not part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They withdrew back in 2003. North Korea tends to do things for attention. In many ways, and especially given that it is the closest thing we have to a black box society, North Korean behavior is like a toddlers. When they don’t get attention, or feel that others are getting more, they act out. Then they get attention, even if its negative, and go back to whatever it is they normally do until the next tantrum. Of course they’re a toddler with a handful of nukes, so your mileage may very.

  15. 15
    Baud says:

    Where are they getting the uranium from?

  16. 16
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    Somebody wants attention, I guess Lil Kim did get what he wanted for Christmas.

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: Its likely going to be a time issue. I don’t know which assignment yet, so I don’t know how much I can allocate to here. Right now I’m doing a lot more posts than I had anticipated – I had figured two to three a week. It’ll get worked out.

  18. 18
    the Conster says:

    I’m so ronery.

  19. 19
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Baud: From…Africa.

    [/GWB impression]

  20. 20
    benw says:

    @Baud: I can – probably – find NK on a map. And once I find that, South Korea will be a cinch!

  21. 21
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: My understanding is that a lot of their initial tech and resources came from the Pakistanis, specifically from A.Q. Khan and his network.

  22. 22
    Baud says:

    This seems like AP scaremongering.

    Confirmed nuclear test by North Korea would be step toward its goal of creating warhead able to reach US:

    Reaching the U.S. requires developments in missile tech, not nuclear testing, no?

    @Adam L Silverman: Are they getting new supplies from somewhere?

  23. 23
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Great minds…Heh! Being that they don’t have much a delivery system and we have no indications that they can actually mount one of their nukes as a payload(if their rocket didn’t blow up on the launchpad or while in first stage flight), it’s to get attention, primarily from South Korea and Japan.

  24. 24
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    Hey, OT question. There are (theoretically) these two fruits in my hotel room. Context indicates they’re edible but I have no idea what they are.
    Golf ball sized. Smooth, spherical, pale yellow. With a flower-thing end and a stem-thing end.
    Extremely fragrant. Scent somewhere between citrus and baby armpit.
    Am I being trolled by Room Service, or is this a thing I should wash and taste?

  25. 25
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @benw: It’s south of North Korea.

  26. 26
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym says:

    Are they signalling their support for Y’all Qaeda, or their willingness to nuke the entire bird sanctuary to dispose of them?

  27. 27
    Renie says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I hope you do have some time to continue posting. I LOVE your posts, always topical and so informative.

    I hope President Baud offers you a position in his Administration!

  28. 28
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: That makes more sense than the directional suburbs of St. Paul.

  29. 29
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder: Do they have a peel and look like a lemon? Then they’re citrons. Since I have no idea where you are, I’m just guessing.

  30. 30
    MomSense says:

    Didn’t Trump just say something about North Korea using nukes on Sunday? He’s going to be even more insufferable tomorrow.

  31. 31
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Renie: I’ll make the time, it just won’t be three or four posts a day…

  32. 32
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I think he’s in Mexico, or Oregon.

    ETA: If it’s Oregon, maybe he’s delivering snacks to Y’all Quada.

  33. 33
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Do they have a peel and look like a lemon? Then they’re citrons. Since I have no idea where you are, I’m just guessing.

    Central Mexico. I know who to ask about this but he’s unavailable.
    Like a rounder, smoother lighter skinned lemon.
    But more importantly, should I try to eat this? I mean, Citron sounds like mosquito repellent.

  34. 34
    Zinsky says:

    Maybe we can convince the North Koreans to invite Donald Trump for a close, very close observation of their next nuke test!

  35. 35
  36. 36
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder: Dulcia Citron, I bet. They’re fairly sour; I’d juice them and add ice and sugar, myself.

  37. 37
    PeakVT says:

    The CTBTO and the US DOD seismic monitoring center(s) probably already know whether or not the event was actually a test based on the shape of the seismic waveforms. Secondary confirmation from atmospheric sampling will take a few days, though. If NK was really, really sloppy there may be infrasound detected as well, but that’s unlikely.

  38. 38
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Zinsky: tRump knows Dennis Rodman and he’s one of Lil Kim’s besties.

    ETA: So there’s hope.

  39. 39
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: I honestly don’t know. I haven’t seen anything in open source news reports about it. They have continually tried to refine their missile technology, but they don’t seem to be making much progress. Every test is a failure. They have some stuff that could hit South Korea, which would be very bad. Usually China is able to reign them in with enticements and threats.

    This may have something to do with the projected famine. Kim and his inner circle may be doing this to get additional food aid from the Chinese. It would fit the pattern.

  40. 40

    Looks like it is 10kT from early calculations. DPRK says it was a successful test of a hydrogen bomb. But 10 kT is a hydrogen bomb fizzle.

  41. 41
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder: Yep, that sounds like a citron.

    They’re used in the Sukkot (Tabernacles) ritual in Judaism.

  42. 42
    the Conster says:

    It was a hydrogen bomb, NK confirms.

  43. 43
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: There’s a great photo of it (DPRK) here.

  44. 44
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    Muchas Gracias. I sliced it open and it smells amazing inside.
    I’m going to try it. And go away. Sorry for the thread-jack. Blame Bohemia Obscura and long days.
    Wow, that is full of super hard little seeds like buckshot but the pulp is delicious.
    Bus to Queretaro tomorrow, plane to Hermosillo Thursday, then home to Detroit Friday if I make it.

  45. 45
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Adam L Silverman: They don’t need nukes to give South Korea a bad day, artillery would do just fine. Downtown Seoul is only about 20 miles from the DMZ.

  46. 46
    Jay C says:

    @Baud: @Adam L Silverman:

    Well, according to Wikipedia, N. Korea seems to have enough of its own uranium resources, which they process into enriched uranium and plutonium using the few reactors they have. It’s all a bit technical for me, but it seems like even though the NorKs only have the capacity to produce a few kg of plutonium a year, it’s enough, as they don’t really need much to construct the few bombs they have.

  47. 47
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Heh, I’ve got my own photos.

  48. 48
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @the Conster: ….Riiiiggghhhtttt.

  49. 49

    Comment in moderation:

    Looks like it is 10kT from early calculations. DPRK says it was a successful test of a hydrogen bomb. But 10 kT is a hydrogen bomb fizzle.

  50. 50
    Baud says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Yeah, I wouldn’t trust NK info either, but I don’t know how difficult it is to upscale from atomic to hydrogen.

  51. 51
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @the Conster: updated

  52. 52
    Baud says:

    The hat tip again goes to the Conster.

    I’m starting to think she’s a NK spy.

  53. 53
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Baud: It is a very significant difference.

  54. 54
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Baud: I’ve seen their “news” broadcasts, I don’t would trust a thing they say. From my understanding(college Chemistry level) you’d need a atomic bomb + the appropriate hydrogen isotopes to produce a hydrogen bomb. It’s not just scaling up the process from producing an atomic bomb.

  55. 55
    PeakVT says:

    NK may have tried to detonate a thermonuclear (fission-fusion) bomb but since they’ve barely been able to get their fission bombs to work, I doubt they got any yield from the fusion portion, if such a thing even existed.

    NK statements exceed even Trump in the number of lies per syllable.

  56. 56
    Baud says:

    Random tweet says this

    South Korean Military Intelligence had previously claimed that NK might be capable of uisng a “Boosted Fusion” weapon, which is a form of a thermonuclear device but NOT a hydrogen bomb.

  57. 57
    catclub says:


    but I don’t know how difficult it is to upscale from atomic to hydrogen.

    My understanding is that it is a BIG deal. Hydrogen bomb needs a fission bomb as a fuse, then you need a properly designed bit to focus the x-rays from the fission bomb on the fusion (hydrogen) target.
    and everything happens really fast. I am pretty sure the focussing bit is called a hohlraum.

  58. 58
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @PeakVT: There are ways of doing things to fission bombs to enhance their power without having a full fusion reaction. NK may be trying to do something like this and calling it a fusion weapon. Wikipedia

    Gas boosting in modern nuclear weapons[edit]
    In a fission bomb, the fissile fuel is “assembled” quickly by a uniform spherical implosion created with conventional explosives, producing a supercritical mass. In this state, many of the neutrons released by the fissioning of a nucleus will induce fission of other nuclei in the fuel mass, also releasing additional neutrons, leading to a chain reaction. This reaction consumes at most 20% of the fuel before the bomb blows itself apart, or possibly much less if conditions are not ideal: the Little Boy (gun type mechanism) and Fat Man (implosion type mechanism) bombs had efficiencies of 1.38% and 13%, respectively.

    Fusion boosting is achieved by introducing tritium and deuterium gas (solid lithium deuteride-tritide has also been used in some cases, but gas allows more flexibility and can be stored externally) into a hollow cavity at the center of the sphere of fission fuel, or into a gap between an outer layer and a “levitated” inner core, sometime before implosion. By the time about 1% of the fission fuel has fissioned, the temperature rises high enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, which produces relatively large numbers of neutrons speeding up the late stages of the chain reaction and approximately doubling its efficiency.

    NK wouldn’t need to put a 10 MT fusion bomb on a rocket to do a lot of damage, and if they have any sense (hard to say) they wouldn’t waste the effort on such a thing.

    I’m just going on what I’ve read – YMMV.


  59. 59
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    Also, IIRC Kim Jung Un’s birthday is Friday.

  60. 60
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @catclub: The material which undergoes fusion is not hydrogen, it is usually lithium deuteride.

    “Boosted fission” is not “fusion.”

    anyway, those interested whould read Richard Rhodes’ Dark Sun.

  61. 61
    GregB says:

    *North Korea wouldn’t dare test a nuke when there’s a strong Republican in the Oval Office!

    *Knowing full well they first tested their nukes when C Plus Augustus was running the show.

  62. 62
    Satby says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: and he wanted Fall Out Boy to play at his party?

    Yeah, lame… I gotta go to bed.

  63. 63
    catclub says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: So now I know there is more than one way to skin that atomic cat.

  64. 64
    BillinGlendaleCA says:


    Knowing full well they first tested their nukes when C Plus Augustus was running the show.

    I’m sure, like 9-11, that was in Bill Clinton’s third term, or like the financial meltdown in Obama’s 0th term.

  65. 65
    catclub says:


    C Plus Augustus was running the show.

    running the show is VERY generous.

  66. 66
    TOP123 says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Whilst we’re discussing your not being paid, allow me to add several imaginary magic beans to your tip jar, and thank you for answering my question in an earlier post, and pointing me to Commins on Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia.

  67. 67
  68. 68
    PeakVT says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: Point taken, but by general convention the phrase “hydrogen bomb” means a fission-fusion device, and that’s phrase being bandied about. It would absolutely not surprise me one bit if they are selling a test of a boosted device as a test of a proper thermonuclear bomb.

  69. 69
    eemom says:

    I guess it’s OT, but I find it appalling when anyone thinks there’s anything remotely joke-worthy about North Korea, a nation where the conditions of Nazi Germany have been visited on the people for 60 years, and nobody in the world gives a shit.

  70. 70
    p.a. says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Barter economy I believe. Pakistan (our ally, yes?) traded its weapons expertise, NK its missile tech. Boom for zoom.

  71. 71
    Mnemosyne says:


    Thanks — I was wondering how, in the ring of fire, we could tell the difference between an earthquake and a detonation from a distance.

  72. 72
    Prescott Cactus says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Since I can contribute a bit more now

    Thank you very much !

  73. 73
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @PeakVT: Atmospheric testing will also indicate what kind of device it was.

  74. 74
    🚸 Martin says:

    @eemom: Everyone in the world gives a shit. Problem is we give a shit about SK as well, and the only solution to NK that anyone can come up with is to nuke them without provocation.

  75. 75
    🚸 Martin says:


    NK wouldn’t need to put a 10 MT fusion bomb on a rocket to do a lot of damage, and if they have any sense (hard to say) they wouldn’t waste the effort on such a thing.

    Countries don’t pursue nukes to nuke people. They pursue nukes because we (the UNSC nations) don’t fuck with nuclear powers.

  76. 76
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TOP123: Happy to help. And you are quite welcome.

  77. 77
    Dmbeaster says:

    @Baud: there are probably viable deposits there. Uranium is more abundant in the crust than many other metals (like gold and silver).

  78. 78
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @p.a.: Sounds about right. There is also no telling who the Israelis have sold or traded tech with. And remember they stole a bunch of our tech and materials to get to their own breakout capability. I’m pretty well convinced that one of the reasons that the Israelis are constantly freaking out about a potential Iranian nuclear weapon is that someone put everything they’ve sold to the Iranians over the years – going back to the days of the Shah – both over and under the table into a spreadsheet and then asked someone knowledgeable what the Iranians could actually do with it. And the someone knowledgable got a very, very upset tummy…

  79. 79
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @eemom: I’m not sure who you’re referring to, but there is nothing funny about this. And I’ve made some inputs about just how difficult the lift will be once the government finally collapses and someone from the outside has to come in and help to stabilize things. You’ve got an impoverished – health, nutrition, education, information – population that has been indoctrinated for multiple generations about how everyone is out to get them and is evil. They’re essentially completely cut off as well. This means that whoever shows up to provide relief, and my guess is it’ll be the Chinese and the US, is going to have a very hard time helping. Just trying to provide basic nutritional aid is going to be met with stiff resistance derived from paranoia and fear. Its going to be a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.

  80. 80
    Edward Marshall says:

    I’m not sure if you realize this, but Cheryl Rofer is an extremely respected scientist from Livermore and if you would like a voice on nuclear weapons she would make one hell of a front pager. She blogs at and as someone who works in the field I read her every day.

  81. 81
    Dmbeaster says:

    @Mnemosyne: you can tell the difference based on the various types of waves created by each. Earthquakes produce many types of waves, including surface waves. Undergroundd nuclear explosions do not produce surface waves, and the “body waves” and p waves of earthquakes have a higher frequency than for explosions. There is a ton of data from all the testing previously done.

  82. 82
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @🚸 Martin: Yeahbut, nuclear weapons only work as a deterrent if people are confident that they work on a delivery vehicle, and if there’s a credible threat that they’ll be used.

    India and Pakistan haven’t exactly been peaceful neighbors even after getting The Bomb.

    And NK was regarded as a dangerous country long before they got The Bomb.

    But, yeah, it makes countries think twice before doing something like invading. Of course, if Kim or his generals were crazy enough to actually try to use a nuclear weapon against anyone, they would quickly find out that the regime was doomed. (A handful of nuclear weapons wouldn’t protect them from massive retaliation.)

    My $0.02.

    (Who thinks that Kim is playing the only cards he has to try to gain attention, stature, and to try wring concessions out of his richer neighbors.)

  83. 83
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Edward Marshall: You’ll have to take this up with our beloved proprietor. I just put up the post about it, I have no authority to recruit talent.

  84. 84
    Edward Marshall says:

    @John Cole Check out Cheryl Rofer. She is the smartest people ever to come out of Livermore Labs and knows more about nuclear weapons than anyone on earth. Offer her a spot. Nuclear weapons are unfortunately going to become more and more of our policy discussions.

  85. 85
    voldemort says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder: it is a passion fruit, or what we call lilikoi in hawaii (NotMax can attest).

  86. 86
  87. 87
    Cermet says:

    Don’t believe they have a hydrogen bomb – their standard fission bomb was and remains a joke compared to even the first Amerikan bomb; that Amerikan bomb was well over 10 kilotons but the Northern Mass murder of Diarrhea: aka North Korea, was barely 1-2 kilotons. More likely just an earth quake created by the weaken rock strata (from previous bomb work)…ok, maybe another fission bomb that they tried to make a real hydrogen bomb but only the trigger bomb (fission) created the vast majority of the blast; maybe, a minuscule amount of hydrogen was fused so technically they did make a tiny fusion device but still only a few kilotons of yield.

  88. 88
    Stan says:

    @🚸 Martin: Right. We could take out their military capabilities in a couple hours, but in the first 20 minutes they might nuke South Korea or Japan….tough problem there.

  89. 89
    Stan says:


    Yeahbut, nuclear weapons only work as a deterrent if people are confident that they work on a delivery vehicle, and if there’s a credible threat that they’ll be used.

    The delivery vehicle need not be a missile. An ordinary shipping container would work perfectly well, sent on an ordinary ship to any foreign harbor.

  90. 90

    @Edward Marshall: Thanks! But I worked at Los Alamos, not Livermore. That’s an important distinction to both sides, er, labs.

    Adam L Silverman is doing a great job as a front-pager in the areas I cover. I mostly lurk and occasionally have something to add.

  91. 91
    maya says:


    when C Plus Augustus was running the show.

    That’s Legacy C Plus Augustus, the equivalent of D Minus Jones.

  92. 92
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Stan: How would that work, exactly?

    1) Kim has a secret program to build a bomb and stick it on a shipping container.
    3) Explosion at American port

    What is step 2?

    Some ship leaves a North Korean port and just trundles up to an American port without being stopped for inspection? It is detonated remotely, somehow, inside a metal shipping container that acts like a Faraday cage? Agents live in the shipping container during the days/weeks it takes to cross the Pacific? What?

    It’s pretty easy to follow a ship back to its home port and figure out who is responsible.

    I don’t see a reasonable Step 2.

    And then, after Step 3, what happens next?


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