Hostage North Korean Nukes?

The report keeps coming up that North Korea will be asked to (or will consider) giving up some of its nuclear weapons as a goodwill gesture. The source of these reports is not clear.

It’s not going to happen.

North Korea sees its nuclear weapons as its lifeline, a way to deter the United States from attempting to change its regime. More personally, Kim Jong Un sees them as his way to stay in power. That’s strong motivation. The statements from North Korea for the past week indicate that only with an ironclad assurance of regime continuance will North Korea even consider giving up its nuclear arsenal. That ironclad assurance will not come in a summit on June 12. Kim will not be easy to convince.

Giving five of its nuclear weapons to the United States would give the United States an enormous amount of information about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

  • How much and what kind of fissile material
  • The shape of the pit
  • Whether boosting is included
  • What kind of neutron initiator
  • The design and type of conventional explosive
  • The timing and initiator system
  • Quality of production
  • Configuration of the whole thing in the warhead

If you know those things, you can extrapolate back to how well their reactors and centrifuges work, which could help to estimate how many weapons they have. You would know whether they got the design from somewhere else or developed it themselves. You would know what to look for in overhead photos to locate weapons plants.

The level of sophistication in design would suggest whether the test blasts were from bombs of the type handed over, or perhaps something else entirely, something much bigger that wouldn’t fit on a re-entry vehicle. It is possible that there is some level of bluff in North Korea’s deterrence; five nukes would tell us more about that.

Knowing the timing and initiator systems would help with countermeasures against a North Korean attack. The United States would be likely to share something like that with Japan and South Korea.

Nuclear weapon design is under one of the highest levels of secrecy nations apply to information. Why should North Korea be different?

North Korea has been very secretive in conducting their nuclear tests. They make sure that nothing comes out of their tests; if telltale isotopes were emitted, the rest of the world could learn whether that last blast was a genuine hydrogen bomb, for example.

When North Korea has mentioned denuclearization in the past, it has meant that it is willing to consider giving up its nuclear weapons when the other nuclear powers are willing to give up theirs. Some in the Trump administration believe that North Korea’s mention of denuclearization means it is willing to give up its entire nuclear weapons program now.

The proposal that North Korea send “hostage” nuclear weapons to the United States smacks of a lead-up to the “Libya model” of full removal of their nuclear weapons program, which North Korea has unambiguously rejected.

Closer to the range of possible summit outcomes would be a North Korean commitment to move toward (note that hedge!) ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty would mean giving up its nuclear weapons, so that is out of the question for now. Ratifying the CTBT would be the kind of large gesture that those advocating hostage nuclear weapons are looking for. They would do better to go in that direction.

Update: Here’s some sanity from Siegfried Hecker, and the report he mentions.

 

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

138 replies
  1. 1
    D58826 says:

    OT but Twitter is reporting that Melania is moving back to NY

  2. 2
    debbie says:

    I don’t understand how one nuclear power can dictate to another nuclear power that it has to give up all its weapons. Has anyone considered asking the United States to give up theirs?

  3. 3
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Giving five of its nuclear weapons to the United States would give the United States an enormous amount of information about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

    Ah, when I started reading your post, looking at the picture, I was wondering if they would do something like film a couple warheads being dismantled (my ignorance is complete and I don’t even know if that’s possible).

    @ jayrosen_nyu
    The summit happens. It’s disarmament theater. The evidence-based say: WTF? No way to verify any of this. Trump: world peace is here. The press questions that. Core supporters say: Nobel! And, “There they go again. Refusing to give him credit.” Polarization deepens. Win for Trump.

    I still think this is all about a photo-op. Kim gets what his father and grandfather never could, de facto recognition of himself as a world leader. Trump declares victory and the MAGAts hoot and holler. I’m ignorant of Korean politics, but my superficial impression is that Moon is overly optimistic. Xi gains influence with trump, and it doesn’t even cost him $500,000,000

  4. 4
    kindness says:

    Well what in the world could possibly be wrong with copying the Libyan model?

  5. 5
    Baud says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Agree. Trump will sell the farm to get his own deal, and leave the problems for the next Democratic administration to fix.

  6. 6
    MisterForkbeard says:

    @D58826: Agreed, OT. I keep thinking that she’s staying out of public eye because Trump beat her, or something. Her “Stay in the hospital for a week when the procedure normally takes a day” and then “never let the cameras anywhere near you” and “take your son away from Trump” seems highly…. suspicious to me.

    And now this, if true.

    Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Like Cheryl says, I agree that KJU isn’t likely to give up any nuclear weapons. They’re his security and he knows it.

  7. 7

    […] Cross-posted at Balloon Juice. […]

  8. 8
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @debbie: Seriously, I actually trust Kim a minute bit more than Trump with nukes.

  9. 9
    D58826 says:

    @MisterForkbeard:

    because Trump beat her

    That was also reported on twitter but a lot harder to confirm than her moving back to NY

  10. 10
    Mary G says:

    I like to think the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is replying to the president’s “Look how great I am, btw Happy Memorial Day” tweet here:

    This day, of all days of the year, should not be about any one of us. No matter how prestigious or powerful, no matter how successful we perceive ourselves to be. Rather, this day should be about those who gave their lives so that we could live ours in freedom. #MemorialDay— GEN(R) Marty Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) May 28, 2018

    Sorry if someone put it in an earlier thread, my body just woke up and will read them after my brain joins it in an hour or two.

  11. 11
    RobertDSC-iPhone 6 says:

    @Gelfling 545:

    Same.

    It’s sad that we have to contemplate such weighty matters with Benedict Donald in the WH. Embarrassing.

  12. 12
    Doug R says:

    Am I the only one seeing Kim Jung Un sidling towards a German style reunification? Taking food aid from China and the South and letting families reunite. He’s got China to help tamp down any dissent, they seem to be doing a very efficient job of that now.

  13. 13
    Ken says:

    Giving five of its nuclear weapons to the United States would give the United States an enormous amount of information about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

    Great, now that you’ve blabbed the administration’s secret plan, it will never work.

    (Course, any plan that only succeeds if the other side are complete idiots won’t work anyway.)

  14. 14
    JPL says:

    @D58826: If she tweets, techies can figure out the location of her phone. Melania is smart enough to take pictures for future reference, if she needs them.

  15. 15
    Timurid says:

    @D58826:

    I couldn’t help but wonder if her kidney was damaged by a punch.

  16. 16
    Doug R says:

    Who’s to say they’re not old Russian bombs that have been reworked?

  17. 17

    I know this isn’t the topic, but China has given Ivanka Tяump’s shitty business 13 new trademarks. I wonder what Donald Tяump gave the Chinese for this.

  18. 18
    JPL says:

    Cheryl, Thank you for your post. It is apparent now that it is easier to speculate what Kim does, than our own erratic president.

  19. 19
    cmorenc says:

    @Mary G:

    This day, of all days of the year, should not be about any one of us. No matter how prestigious or powerful, no matter how successful we perceive ourselves to be. Rather, this day should be about those who gave their lives so that we could live ours in freedom. #MemorialDay— GEN(R) Marty Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) May 28, 2018

    Gen. Dempsey’s remarks will be totally lost on malignantly narcissistic, totally shameless Donald Trump, except to provoke his totally uninsightful resentment against anyone throwing any shade or criticism Donald’s way. Hopefully, though Gen. Dempsey’s remarks will get through to make at least some of the general public more aware of how off-kilter and disrespectful Trump’s “me…me…MEEEE” focus of his Memorial Day remarks truly are, beyond the many already thoroughly nauseously repulsed by Trump.

  20. 20

    @JPL: Yeah, well, that’s only because he knows that a bigly great leader has to be unpredictable. Always keep everybody guessing. That’s how you win bigly, and then it’s all like, “Checkmate, libtardz!!1!~!!.” Didn’t you know that?

  21. 21
    patrick II says:

    @Ken:

    (Course, any plan that only succeeds if the other side are complete idiots won’t work anyway.)

    That’s not Russia and China are saying when dealing with Trump.

  22. 22
    MisterForkbeard says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): Possibly nothing. It costs China nothing and gets enormous “I like China!” points from Trump.

    It also gives them future leverage over Trump. They can revoke those trademarks easily later and Trump knows it.

  23. 23
    NotMax says:

    Quite noticeable that the squishy term denuclearization has replaced the.more concise nuclear disarmament in discourse.

  24. 24
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @patrick II: That’s because the Trump side ARE complete idiots. Sadly, we’re all along for the ride.

  25. 25

    @Doug R: The evidence is that North Korea is quite capable of designing and building its own.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    Ken says:

    @patrick II: I thought I’d be nice and just set it up for someone else to say.

  28. 28
    waspuppet says:

    @MisterForkbeard: Besides, any guarantee from Donald Trump is worthless.

  29. 29
    Baud says:

    @MisterForkbeard: There’s definitely something going on. The fact that the truth hasn’t leaked yet makes me curious as well.

  30. 30

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I’m ignorant of Korean politics, but my superficial impression is that Moon is overly optimistic.

    Madame watches Korean news, she agrees with your take.

  31. 31

    @Baud: Are you up to this challenge?

  32. 32
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Obviously not, but that’s never stopped me before.

  33. 33
    Librarian says:

    He desperately wants a summit so he will win the Nobel. That’s all he cares about. It’s all about owning the libs and getting reelected.

  34. 34
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Doug R:
    “German-style” reunification, as I understand it, would mean the ROK absorbing the DPRK, with the Kims giving up power — which the North Korean royal family will never agree to. The DPRK absorbing the ROK, which the Kims would no doubt prefer, seems highly implausible given that South Korea is by far the wealthier and stronger nation in almost every way. I thought we jackals had already come to a consensus that the latter was not going to happen.

  35. 35
    JPL says:

    @Baud: https://twitter.com/melaniatrump?lang=en This location is in NYC and @flotus is in Washington DC. That’s all I got.

  36. 36
    RepubAnon says:

    @Doug R: Yes, except that it’ll be South Korea that agrees to accept North Korea’s governmental structure – possibly on the Hong Kong model, with security agreements from China. Why? Because Kim will sell South Korea on the idea that it’s the only way to keep the US from turning their two countries into a radioactive hellscape.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    D58826 says:

    @JPL: Won’t even need the techies, just the increased level of secret service activity at Trump Tower should be a give away that she is in New York

  39. 39
    Amir Khalid says:

    @RepubAnon:
    I doubt the South Koreans are as weak or stupid as that.

  40. 40

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Polarization deepens. Win for Trump.

    Rosen has an incredibly generous interpretation of the word ‘win’ there. The people who were already determined to never under any circumstances admit Trump loses refuse to admit Trump lost. Everyone who somehow managed to not make up their mind yet gets another straw on the ‘Trump is an incompetent buffoon’ pile. That sounds like a very slightly loss but mostly status quo, to me.

    @RepubAnon:

    Yes, except that it’ll be South Korea that agrees to accept North Korea’s governmental structure

    That’s like California agreeing to let Kansas rule them. It ain’t going to happen. Even if, and I doubt it, South Korea’s leaders are sold on the idea, even if the idea were right, the people will not take that deal.

  41. 41
    mad citizen says:

    If we could add in some exporting of the cool South Korean nuclear scientist/military uniforms to the U.S., that would be a plus.

  42. 42
    EthylEster says:

    @debbie: Another kind of asymmetric warfare. Our kind.

  43. 43
    B.B.A. says:

    @Amir Khalid: If Trump gets his bribe – as I’ve often half-joked, there’s a big empty hotel in downtown Pyongyang just waiting for a branding deal – they may not have much of a choice.

  44. 44
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Librarian:
    If, God forbid, Trump ever wins a Nobel Prize, he will throw a tantrum to embarrass America for all time when he arrives in Stockholm and discovers that the awards ceremony is nothing like the Oscars.

  45. 45

    @B.B.A.:
    Doesn’t matter. South Korea is not a dictatorship. The people will let the US pull out and North Korea invade, fighting back on their own, before letting their government sign onto any kind of rule by North Korea. The idea of reunification under North Korea is ludicrous. If Trump actively threatens to nuke them, all he’s going to get is laughed at as a weak loser who won’t do it on the international stage, and a giant rebellious middle finger from the whole Korean peninsula.

  46. 46
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: You can get the plans for one on the internet! ////

  47. 47
    The Pale Scot says:

    A question Cheryl about nukes, I’ve haven’t been able understand the divide between boosted warheads and true H-bombs. Boosted enhances the yield by the Tritium increasing the amount of neutrons making the fission reaction more efficient, it seems to me that there’s more potential energy per volume from Pu than you can get out of H3, but instead a Tritium fusion reaction can release that much more energy than fission?

    Always wanted to ask, Thnx

  48. 48
    Hoodie says:

    @RepubAnon: that’s silly. Best guess is that KJU wants to set up a fiefdom where South Korean corporations like Samsung have plants in NK, he skims off the top. SK corps are happy to have the cheap labor, as they’re in an existential battle with Chinese corps. They also get some family reunification, but I imagine that is less important as time goes by. They also avoid a refugee crisis that might occur if Kim government were to fall, as well as the benefits of Kim’s nuclear umbrella against regional rivals like Japan and China. Basically exchange a US protectorate for a Korean one.

  49. 49
    gene108 says:

    @Baud:

    Agree. Trump will sell the farm to get his own deal, and leave the problems for the next Democratic administration to fix.

    And how is that different than any other Republican President?

    Bush, Sr. couldn’t reach a non-proliferation deal with N. Korea. Clinton produces the Agreed Framework, and Republicans howl it is the worst deal ever. Bush, Jr. tears up Clinton’s deal, names N. Korea as a member of the Axis of Evil, and then N. Korea relaunches its nuclear weapons program, detonating their first warhead in 2006. Obama is left with flaming bags of shit to clean up in Afghanistan and Iraq, and doesn’t really have much leverage with N. Korea, but isn’t going to sell the US position out for a photo-op.

    And now we have Trump, who will sell us out for a photo-op and the chance to get Trump branded properties in N. Korea. China is probably telling Jong Un about how to play Trump like a fiddle.

    And the media, who have the attention span of a hyperactive gold fish, will blame the next Democratic President for not cleaning up whatever mess Trump makes.

    I just hope Trump has enough sense to bring in American interpreters to the negotiation, and not just rely on N. Korean ones, like he does, when meeting with Russians.

  50. 50
    geg6 says:

    You make these complicated things totally understandable, Cheryl. My gratitude to you for sharing your expertise.

  51. 51
    MagdaInBlack says:

    @D58826:
    I find it hard to imagine that bloated lunatic having the energy to hit anything more than “redial”
    That being said, abuse occured to me as well.

  52. 52
    Ohio Mom says:

    I’m not saying I’m a world-class goggler but my search turned up no established sources (eg, newspaper) verifying that Melania has moved back to New York. Which would be a fairly easy thing to research, I would think: a reporter camped out at Trump Tower ought to suffice.

    So, is this merely an unfounded rumor, or another instance of the press falling down on the job?

  53. 53

    @The Pale Scot: When I signed on here, I said that I wouldn’t talk about nuclear weapon design. So I’ll just say that for boosting, some tritium is added. For a true thermonuclear bomb, there is an additional assembly that provides the fusion.

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    @Doug R:

    Am I the only one seeing Kim Jung Un sidling towards a German style reunification?

    Yep. Kim doesn’t stay in power with German style unification. He becomes politically irrelevant.

    Shit, if something like that happened, Trump would actually deserve a Nobel Prize.

  55. 55
    ljdramone says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    “German-style” reunification, as I understand it, would mean the ROK absorbing the DPRK, with the Kims giving up power…

    Yeah, under the “German Model” it’s not like Egon Krentz wound up in charge of a reunified Germany.

    (Krenz was the last General Secretary of the East German Socialist Unity Party, and was sentenced to 6 years in prison for manslaughter after reunification was completed in 1992.)

  56. 56
    Suzanne says:

    @Amir Khalid: I concur with you. Why would anybody think that the South would take that deal? If the South took that deal, they’re stupider than I thought.

    I just do not see that happening.

    I can see the Kims giving up power before I can see that, albeit in exchange for a life of wealth and privilege in exile. I cannot imagine the Kims ever being safe staying in Korea.

  57. 57
    chopper says:

    @The Pale Scot:

    to put it simply, while plutonium releases neutrons upon fission, they’re not the type of neutrons it likes to absorb. it will easily absorb the type of neutrons released in fusion. simple Pu devices like the trinity bomb we’re pretty inefficient as the pit would blow itself apart before the Pu could absorb enough. a boosted device adds some tritium or other material in the center to fuse and bathe the pit in the right kind of neutrons. doing so along with clever design can raise the efficiency to pretty high levels and allow the reduction of pit size.

  58. 58
    Ruckus says:

    @Doug R:
    Well, there’s at least 2 of us.
    I mentioned this the other day. Kim has seen his country not make a lot of progress his entire life and he’s seen what the world can look like. I’d bet lots of garbanzos that he doesn’t want to give up power but he’d like to see his country improve. And really there is only one way he can do both and that’s to join the rest of the world. Keeping his nuclear toys keeps him in power, opening his country to the world should help him endear him to his citizens. He’s probably expecting the talk to be “Look what he’s done for us that his father and grandfather never diid.”
    And the only way he can pull that off is a massive position of power. Nukes give him that.

  59. 59
    Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.) says:

    @Librarian: Do you think he’s really stupid enough to believe he could win a Nobel Prize? I know he talks about it all the time, but I have a tough time believing even he could be demented enough to think he might win one. Then again, the safest way to look at this guy is to always assume the dumbest, most deranged thing about him.

  60. 60

    @Suzanne:
    North Korea submitting to South Korea only involves a very small number of people, maybe just one, having a shockingly unexpected whim. Way more likely than millions. Still would be jaw-dropping, but it’s at least believable.

  61. 61
    gene108 says:

    @B.B.A.:

    South Korea has more people, a much stronger industrial base (i.e. all the Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, etc factories converting to support the war effort), and South Korea’s military is better equipped, even if numerically smaller (I believe, if S.Korea calls up their reserve forces, they will outnumber the North).

    In a conventional war, North Korea has to land an immediate knock out punch on S. Korea, because otherwise the South can ramp up its industrial production to a war footing, call up its larger population to fight, and use its superior equipment to repulse the North.

    If I can grok this, I am sure the South Koreans are well aware of how they stack up against North Korea.

  62. 62
    Another Scott says:

    Excellent, and persuasive. Thanks Cheryl.

    In other news (I believe this was mentioned a couple of days ago in a comment)- McClatchyDC – ‘Medicare at 55’ now on Dianne Feinstein’s agenda.

    BY EMILY CADEI
    ecadei@mcclatchydc.com

    May 25, 2018 03:01 AM
    WASHINGTON

    In the past month, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has thrown her support behind two liberal health care bills. Shortly thereafter, her re-election campaign began airing a statewide ad touting her embrace of the policies promoted by the two bills she co-sponsored.

    “I believe in universal health care, in a public health option to compete with private insurance companies and expanding Medicare to everyone over 55,” Feinstein says in the ad, part of an attempt to push back against her leading 2018 opponent, state Sen. Kevin de León, who has made his support of a single-payer health care program a central plank of his campaign.

    Feinstein aides said the timing of the ad and the support for the two bills is unrelated, pointing out the legislation is an extension of the types of health care policies she’s been advocating for more than a decade.

    […]

    “Single Payer” is a chimera. I hope Diane beats him to (with any luck at all) put a coffin in that misguided, distracting idea. Incremental progress is the way forward in most policy objectives in the USA. Fighting for “Single Payer” is one of the best ways to push meaningful expansion of benefits off for years and years and years…

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  63. 63
    Suzanne says:

    @Ruckus:

    opening his country to the world should help him endear him to his citizens

    You think? I am more of the opinion that, once his citizens understand the prison camps, the level of poverty they’ve been kept to, the torture, the missing family members, etc etc etc, that the Kims are very much in danger of being assassinated by their own citizens or military.

  64. 64
    NotMax says:

    @ljdramone

    Well, Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany (and graduated from Karl Marx University).

    Just sayin’.

  65. 65
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.):
    I’m not sure about stupid, but Trump is certainly vain enough to think he is owed a Nobel Prize for failing to start a war.

  66. 66
    Caravelle says:

    @RepubAnon: Aside from the points everyone else made, how would South Korea going with North Korea’s “governmental structure” *reduce* the odds of Trump reducing both to a nuclear hellscape ? North Korea’s the one the US sees as an enemy, not South Korea. South Korea going under North Korea’s government would make it fair game for Trump to blow up in a way it currently isn’t.

  67. 67
    Brachiator says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Great post, as always.

    The report keeps coming up that North Korea will be asked to (or will consider) giving up some of its nuclear weapons as a goodwill gesture. The source of these reports is not clear.

    It’s not going to happen.

    So, the great question is what does North Korea want? What will they say? What will they do?

    Also, what does South Korea want? They have seen North Korea back out of previous agreements. I don’t see them as a passive partner in this, or meekly letting the US push them into something undesirable.

    The Trump administration previously talked tough and stupid about de-nuclearization, but has seemed really hot to keep the summit going. And even though it is easy to focus on Trump ineptitude, again I wonder about the involvement of foreign policy professionals.

    Sung Kim, a veteran diplomat (and Obama appointee) is heading the delegation to get the summit started. He also has previous experience dealing with North Korea. Someone in the Trump administration understands that this is not Amateur Hour.

  68. 68
    Suzanne says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Agree. The trick is to incentivize Kim Jong Number Un (one of the funnier Twitter accounts ever, BTW) to agree to step out. How to make that happen is the real question. I cannot imagine a way for that to happen. He’d be assassinated by his own people, or put on trial for crimes against humanity, or something else, and I am sure he knows it.

  69. 69
    NotMax says:

    @gene108

    Or set up a huge all you can eat buffet on the south side of the DMZ, complete with giant fans blowing the aromas north, then sit back and watch the DPRK troops run over one another to drop their weapons and pick up cutlery.

    ;)

  70. 70
    Ruckus says:

    @Amir Khalid:
    Well in a war sense the north and south are not equals. The south gets a lot of it’s strength from the US and of course the north now has nukes.
    Whatever else Kim is, stupid he ain’t. This doesn’t have to be like East/West Germany. Those two didn’t have any equalizing power, like Kim does now. The south has the economy, the north has nukes. I’d bet that Kim isn’t going to want the south to give up everything, he knows that will never work. I’d bet the south knows Kim isn’t going to give up his nukes, is far, far more aware of it than anyone in this maladministration. E/W Germany was not a mutually agreeable arrangement in any way. N/S Korea could be. Won’t be easy, but it is doable as long as the US doesn’t play Russia in the 21st century version of E/W Germany. What might the chances of that, given who is nominally in charge?

  71. 71
    scav says:

    @Mary G: “This day, of all days of the year, should not be about any one of us. No matter how prestigious or powerful, no matter how successful we perceive ourselves to be.” I just needed to savor that “perceive ourselves to be” slipped in by Gen. Dempsey there. Nice, gentle underhand lob.

  72. 72
    gene108 says:

    @Suzanne:

    am more of the opinion that, once his citizens understand the prison camps, the level of poverty they’ve been kept to, the torture, the missing family members, etc etc etc, that the Kims are very much in danger of being assassinated by their own citizens or military.

    From what I have seen of North Korea vis a couple of books and TV specials, the Kims are revered as some sort of divinely appointed rulers. It would take a lot of opening up to get people to change.

    China also opened up, but the Communist party is still in charge, despite poverty and famines, caused by decades of bad policy.

    I think getting some Samsung factories in N. Korea won’t hurt the ruling dynasty much. China managed a similar transition and can guide N. Korea.

  73. 73

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: I’ve been assuming that this is a calculated image, for reasons both domestic and international.

  74. 74
    gene108 says:

    @NotMax:

    Might be the way to topple the North Korean government. I think it could work.

  75. 75
  76. 76
    Suzanne says:

    @NotMax: In all seriousness, I don’t know how Kim survives opening up his country. His arrangement has only worked because his citizens have been kept mostly unaware of the conditions in the rest of the world. Statements from defectors have indicated as such. Once they know that they have been kept suffering in order to prop up his leadership—and of course, I am sure that many of them have some idea already—how does he avoid being overthrown and executed, or a military coup, or just an assassination?

    I have zero expertise on this issue, so take my words FWIW, but I have read about how the past few years have brought more black-market media and internet devices to NK citizens, which means that the secret is leaking out, and I am sure that Kim knows he cannot survive it if he continues doing what he’s doing. So I am supposing that he feels a growing sense of urgency.

  77. 77
    Another Scott says:

    @The Pale Scot: Richard Rhodes’ Dark Sun talks about these issues in a (to me, anyway) surprising amount of detail. It’s a fascinating book, but wasn’t quite as readable as TMOTAB – a masterpiece.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  78. 78

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.):

    Then again, the safest way to look at this guy is to always assume the dumbest, most deranged thing about him.

    Trump’s Razor, as Josh Marshall calls it. And usually it is the correct explanation.

  79. 79
    gene108 says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Nah, no need for the blue jeans. Just all you can eat bimimbop and cola.

  80. 80
    Citizen_X says:

    @Hoodie: That’s…actually a pretty good idea for peaceful reunification (or something starting to approach it). Sure, it would suck that Kim would be basically selling out his populace as cheap labor, but OTOH they would get to eat regularly. More contacts—both personal and commercial—would eventually open up NK society more. Maybe eventually the Kims could even be told, “Hey, now you’re unimaginably rich. How about you guys retire somewhere?” and the country could talk about actual reunification.

  81. 81
    Ruckus says:

    @Suzanne:
    Didn’t say this is an easy or straight shot for Kim. He does have to balance a lot of things to make it work but everyone thinking of total reunification is missing the point. There is a reason that has never happened and it’s because the structures are way, way to different and the people in the south wouldn’t stand for it and the person in the north wouldn’t go for it unless he remained dictator. What I think is going to happen is an opening of the countries, a recognition that they really are separate countries and that Kim stays in charge of his while the citizens can go back and forth. As I understand it this is already done on a very limited scale with some workers, I’d bet that Kim would like to see this on a larger scale. It would keep him in power, it would appease, I’d bet a lot of Koreans and it would place Kim in a spot light as a leader who works for peace. We’ve been a nuclear power longer than anyone else and go on and on about peace in the world, all the while being anything but peaceful. Kim is following, abet in his own way, our lead.

  82. 82
    Mike in NC says:

    @Amir Khalid: Trump will orchestrate a bogus “popular” movement to get himself nominated for the Nobel. Among the letter writers will be John Barron and David Dennison.

  83. 83
    randy khan says:

    From my selfish perspective of not wanting to discover that North Korea has a way of delivering nukes to D.C. (and I don’t mean FedEx), I will be happy with any outcome that causes the Administration to ratchet down. If that requires Trump getting snookered because he knows nothing, and the MAGAs getting snookered, too, well, I’m okay with that.

    I also think that’s one of the two most likely outcomes of a summit; the other being a general disaster that increases tensions. Obviously, the snookering is preferable.

  84. 84
    The Pale Scot says:

    Thnx Cheryl, I understand the circumstances

  85. 85
    randy khan says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.):

    Do you think he’s really stupid enough to believe he could win a Nobel Prize? I know he talks about it all the time, but I have a tough time believing even he could be demented enough to think he might win one. Then again, the safest way to look at this guy is to always assume the dumbest, most deranged thing about him.

    I suspect he will think he deserves a Nobel prize if the summit is anything but a total disaster (and even then he may think he deserves one for effort). He may also think those eggheads in Norway will refuse to give him one because socialism, or something like that.

  86. 86
    Another Scott says:

    @randy khan: Hey, The Kenyan got one. How hard can it be?!?!??

    (groucho-roll-eyes.gif)

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  87. 87
    The Pale Scot says:

    @chopper: I understand the neutron action, it just seemed to me that the equivalent mass of H3 to Pu would take up a lot more volume and it would be easier to just make a bigger pit unless fusion releases much more energy. More of math and physics question than design. But I forgot about Lithium

  88. 88
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Mike in NC:
    The Committee would not accept a nomination by popular petition. But if Trump wants to make a fool of himself that way — well, he’s already made a fool of himself in all the other ways, so why not?

  89. 89

    @Another Scott: OTOH, DiFi is a thousand years old; I’m voting for her opponent in the primary.

  90. 90

    @NotMax:

    complete with giant fans blowing the aromas north

    They pretty much do that now.

  91. 91
    Brachiator says:

    @Ruckus:

    There is a reason that has never happened and it’s because the structures are way, way to different and the people in the south wouldn’t stand for it and the person in the north wouldn’t go for it unless he remained dictator.

    People thought much the same thing about East and West Germany, and they were totally wrong.

    I don’t think that there are many people in the US who can say what North or South Koreans want or what they will stand for.

  92. 92

    @Major Major Major Major: That’s not the Madame views it, she sees Moon as naive. The North Koreans have done this before with accommodating South Korean Presidents. They offer concessions and a small bit of openness and the shut it down.

  93. 93

    @Suzanne: Think of the North Korean population as die hard Trumpers, they’re almost all true believers and reality plays little part in their calculus.

  94. 94
    Librarian says:

    @Mike in NC: a bunch of House Republicans have already nominated him for it.

  95. 95

    @Citizen_X: South Korea’s government does not want a East/West Germany type of unification, they want a much more gradual process. A quick unification is their worst nightmare, other than war. They view it as a decades long process.

  96. 96
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.): Believe it. Every time I’ve said that no one could be stupid enough to… he goes right ahead and proves that he is.

  97. 97
    Brachiator says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    Think of the North Korean population as die hard Trumpers, they’re almost all true believers and reality plays little part in their calculus.

    I wonder how committed they really are to the regime?

    I keep hearing stories about terrible punishment done to those who do not display sufficient affection for their leader.

    I know people from former Soviet controlled countries who note that they almost went crazy maintaining the lie that they were good Communists.

  98. 98

    @Brachiator:

    I wonder how committed they really are to the regime?

    These folk and their parents and grandparents have been hearing this cult of personality for almost the last 70 years. The vast majority are true believers.

  99. 99

    @Brachiator:

    So, the great question is what does North Korea want? What will they say? What will they do?

    Also, what does South Korea want? They have seen North Korea back out of previous agreements. I don’t see them as a passive partner in this, or meekly letting the US push them into something undesirable.

    North Korea wants to be recognized as a nuclear power. They’ve partly got that now. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea would like relations to be improved. His family were refugees from the North, so it’s personal for him. But I saw a report that the South Korean parliament rejected some aspect of the latest North-South agreement. Like any other nation, South Korea has a variety of opinions.

    As to North Korea backing out of previous agreements, there’s a lot to be suspicious of, but the US was partly responsible for breaking those agreements too. (Thanks, George W!)

  100. 100
    Doug R says:

    @Suzanne: He’s got the China model to clamp down on the population ever really knowing the truth, plus there’s always Switzerland.

  101. 101
    James Powell says:

    @Another Scott:

    Fighting for “Single Payer” is one of the best ways to push meaningful expansion of benefits off for years and years and years…

    But if we think it’s a good idea and we think it can be done, why not argue for it? It’s not like the whole country will embrace, but why not argue for it? Why not make the case instead of prohibiting the subject from the debate? Why not force everyone advocating something else to compare themselves to single payer?

  102. 102
    Mary G says:

    I have always hated the NY Yankees with all my heart, but I have to admit that their fans did a good one today:

    Giuliani gets booed at the Yankees game when announced that today is his birthday.— Amie Parnes (@amieparnes) May 28, 2018

  103. 103
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @Citizen_X: I think Kim might be hoping for some such arrangement with him holding power over a nation-lite with greatly expanded employment and income for his lifetime and devil take the hindmost after he passes.

  104. 104

    @James Powell: It would be nice if we could start by agreeing on what “single payer” means. How are we paying for it? Who decides the benefits? How will we address the disruption? Will there be a private tier? There are many ways to make “single-payer” worse than other universal coverage schemes.

    ETA: and that’s why we can’t “debate single-payer” any more than we can “debate elevated railroads.” What kind? Where? For who? Instead of what? Cars? Subways?

  105. 105
    Baud says:

    @James Powell: A history of petulant and destructive purityism on the issue.

  106. 106
    debbie says:

    @Suzanne:

    I am sure that Kim knows he cannot survive it if he continues doing what he’s doing. So I am supposing that he feels a growing sense of urgency.

    Puts me in mind of that act on the Ed Sullivan Show, with the guy rushing back and forth just to keep all the plates spinning. Maybe it’s all just become too much

  107. 107
    Brachiator says:

    @James Powell:

    But if we think it’s a good idea and we think it can be done, why not argue for it? It’s not like the whole country will embrace, but why not argue for it?

    Health care reform is tough. Getting the Affordable Care Act passed was a hard fight.

    There are a number of universal health care plans in place. Arguing for “single payer” means nothing. Outline a plan, provide a cost estimate and funding mechanisms, and tell me how it improves upon the current ACA. Otherwise, this might be the empty nonsense that Bernie Sanders peddles.

  108. 108
    Ruckus says:

    @Gelfling 545:
    Kim is what 35 now? Does he even have heirs? And even if he does, that’s going to be what 35-50 yrs before they take over unless there is a very unlikely coup.
    @Cheryl Rofer:
    This is why I’m putting it out there that Kim may be going in a slightly different direction. He knows that a lot of the past reluctance to any sort of North/South deal was the US. And right now, with our buffoon in charge, maybe he thinks he has a chance to pull something off. What does he have to lose that he’s not always risking?

  109. 109

    @Cheryl Rofer: They’ve back out of agreements with the South that are independent of our actions, it’s what they do.

  110. 110
    James E Powell says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Applying that standard – that we can’t include it in the debate because it raises questions – to every policy would mean we can never debate or discuss anything.

    Republicans argue for extreme, no f in way, policies all the time. Seems to help their brand. Doesn’t seem to hurt them at all.

    One of the barriers to broader support for single payer programs, generally, is the fact that every time the subject comes up there’s a chorus of “no serious person would mention such a thing!”

  111. 111
    Suzanne says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: I’m not sure that is true. Defectors have indicated that discontent is real but that fear is even more widespread. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of true believers, but I also don’t doubt that there is a significant portion of the population that will be very hard to manage as the country is opened.

    @Doug R: Exile seems like the most likely outcome to me, too.

  112. 112
    James E Powell says:

    @Baud:

    Believe me, I know about that. I watched Ted Kennedy savage Carter over that. But there is is a pretty big space between advocating for something and insisting upon it as a deal breaker.

    And please, the rest of you, don’t lump me in with Sanders and his band of merry men.

  113. 113

    @James E Powell:

    Applying that standard – that we can’t include it in the debate because it raises questions – to every policy would mean we can never debate or discuss anything.

    “Single-payer” is barely “policy.” It is an umbrella description of many policies. It is like debating “trains.” I think we should expand public transit in San Francisco. Lots of people agree on this! And yet details of implementation are why it never happens, and what all of the debates are actually about. We should talk about how we want “universal coverage.” Until there is agreement on that, talking about “single-payer” is kind of silly.

  114. 114
    Brachiator says:

    @James E Powell:

    One of the barriers to broader support for single payer programs, generally, is the fact that every time the subject comes up there’s a chorus of “no serious person would mention such a thing!”

    That’s not what we are saying at all.

    The Bernie Sanders wing and others always talk about “single payer, you know, like they have in Europe.”

    Or, people randomly pick a model, Canada or France, and say, “yeah, let’s do that.”

    Proponents of single payer need to offer something more substantive.

  115. 115
    Baud says:

    @James E Powell: I wasn’t making assumptions about you. Just trying to answer your question. The reality is, there’s no way to have a debate that excludes the dead enders.

    I also don’t think many people on our side don’t understand the advantages of single payer in the abstract. The debate to be had is what to do to improve health care in the messy real world we have to deal with.

  116. 116
    Anotherlurker says:

    @Mary G: I’m not a baseball fan, I’m a Mets fan.
    To give Yankees fans credit, I worked a game in 2004 that Dick Cheney attended. A camera shot of him in Steinbrenner’s box brought universal, loud booing ! I am proud of my fellow NYers.

  117. 117
    Brachiator says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    South Korea’s government does not want a East/West Germany type of unification, they want a much more gradual process. A quick unification is their worst nightmare, other than war. They view it as a decades long process.

    Problem is, as we saw in Germany, once you set these forces in motion, they are difficult to manage.

    I have no idea whether reunification is a goal or possible, but I think that as China continues to grow its economy, it might become more difficult to subsidize a backwards client state like North Korea, especially when you also have a relative economic giant like South Korea also promising more than the North can deliver to its people.

  118. 118
    chopper says:

    @The Pale Scot:

    the tritium isn’t there for its energy content, its there to raise the efficiency of the fissioning of the pit. you could always just increase the size of the pit, sure, but it’s pretty wasteful. also you want the fission stage to be as small as possible so it’s easier to fit on a missile or use as a first stage in an h-bomb.

  119. 119

    If a Nobel Prize does result from this, I’d love to see it go to Moon and Kim, with no Trump.

  120. 120
    Ruckus says:

    @Brachiator:
    How about them offering something at all substantive?
    Single payer sounds good, right up until the moment you start discussing details.
    Then it’s what does single payer itself do or mean? And the answer is not really a damn thing.
    It’s a way to pay for something but what it’s not is the something and how much it costs which is important.

  121. 121

    @Suzanne: Defectors come from a small subset of the population, they are not representative. They have almost all had problems integrating to life in the South.

  122. 122

    @Brachiator: In German, unification in name was very quick and they didn’t have much time to plan for it. The ROK government has been planning for this for decades. They have paid close attention what happened with German reunification.

  123. 123
    cain says:

    Why are we looking at Kim Jong Il commenting on his brewery?

  124. 124
    Another Scott says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: As long as a senator has a pulse and a good, competent staff, it doesn’t really matter how old they are. “Without objection, it’s so ordered!”

    AFAIK, she still has both. ;-) Plus, the institution rewards longevity over almost anything else, so keeping her around makes some sense.

    Seriously, I agree that we should have a lot more younger people representing us. There are too many people in their 8th and 9th decades on this Earth who have too much political power. But unless there’s some policy reason why she shouldn’t be re-elected, I wouldn’t vote for the Single Payer guy, myself.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  125. 125
    SgrAStar says:

    @MisterForkbeard: she’s staying out of sight because she’s recovering from a facelift. Just a hypothesis. :)

  126. 126
    MisterForkbeard says:

    @SgrAStar: If that’s the case, it should be pretty obvious when she resurfaces.

  127. 127
    Another Scott says:

    @Librarian: There are probably tens of thousands of people who are qualified to make a nomination:

    Qualified Nominators

    Revised September 2016

    According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, a nomination is considered valid if it is submitted by a person who falls within one of the following categories:

    • Members of national assemblies and national governments (cabinet members/ministers) of sovereign states as well as current heads of states

    • Members of The International Court of Justice in The Hague and The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague

    • Members of Institut de Droit International

    • University professors, professors emeriti and associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology, and religion; university rectors and university directors (or their equivalents); directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes

    • Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

    • Members of the main board of directors or its equivalent for organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

    • Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (proposals by current members of the Committee to be submitted no later than at the first meeting of the Committee after 1 February)

    • Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee

    Unless otherwise stated the term members shall be understood as current (sitting) members.

    GOP politicians nominating him doesn’t really mean very much at this point. ;-)

    If there is any Peace Prize awarded over the ROK/DPRK stuff, I’m willing to bet that it would go to Moon and Kim and not Donnie. Bill Clinton didn’t get one for either the Dayton or Oslo I agreements.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  128. 128
    Brachiator says:

    @Ruckus:

    How about them offering something at all substantive?
    Single payer sounds good, right up until the moment you start discussing details.

    One thing I’ve learned from our front pager who is an expert on insurance is that the industry knows a lot about health care costs and what needs to be covered and the consequences of various policy decisions.

    But also because of this, I don’t have much patience with general calls for single payer.

    And yeah, you need something about costs and funding mechanisms, and coverage goals.

  129. 129
    Brachiator says:

    @Another Scott:

    If there is any Peace Prize awarded over the ROK/DPRK stuff, I’m willing to bet that it would go to Moon and Kim and not Donnie. Bill Clinton didn’t get one for either the Dayton or Oslo I agreements.

    Kim would be positively over the Moon if he won a Nobel Prize.

  130. 130
    catclub says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    For a true thermonuclear bomb, there is an additional assembly that provides the fusion.

    I can demonstrate my complete knowledge of fusion bombs with one word: hohlraum.

  131. 131
    Another Scott says:

    @James Powell: I haven’t kept up with the CA Senate race, so I’ll have to argue in the abstract.

    In the abstract, I would argue against making it a part of my campaign because there are only so many hours in the day, only so many moments to connect with voters, and only so many opportunities to convince people to support me over someone else. Talking about pie-in-the-sky ideas, that realistically cannot be implemented without going through a transition period that will take decades, that are terribly complicated and involve (what is it?) 1/7th of the economy and millions of jobs, and something that (realistically) means different things to different people ( Voter A – Single Payer = Glorious Future where Evil Capitalist Scum are First Up Against the Wall!, Voter B – Single Payer = VA/Medicare/Medicaid for All, Voter C – Single Payer = UK NHS with 5 year waits to see a doctor, Voter D – Single Payer = A pipe dream that will be demagogued by the GOP, etc., etc.).

    It’s a losing strategy that takes all the air out of the room, IMHO.

    I don’t think that 95% of voters care about Single Payer™ – they care about paying too much for health insurance and health care. They care about having to work to pay for health insurance, even though they would much rather retire and be home to take care of their elderly parents or disabled kid. They care about having to work for a soul-sucking boss or do a dangerous, painful job that they’ve been doing for decades because that’s the only thing they can find that pays enough to pay for the health care of their spouse or kid.

    We need simple, real-world messages and acheivable goals. Sure, “I want to work toward a system that squeezes monopoly rents out of our healthcare system while improving care” is a nice message. But “People who are 55 should be able to buy into Medicare/Medicaid” (there are some good arguments that expanding Medicaid is better than Medicare for All) is an easier sell, is an achievable goal, and puts us on the road to expanding access and reducing costs now.

    tl;dr – Purity kills. Meaning – While some (too many) lefty politicians argue that a bill that can get enough votes to pass and be signed “isn’t good enough”, people die.

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  132. 132
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Another Scott: I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. That feinstein ad should be a template for Dems.

  133. 133
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    My guess is they pull a Doc Brown and give us bomb cases full of old pinball machine parts and Trump is too dumb to know the difference.

  134. 134
    J R in WV says:

    @SgrAStar:

    More likely than that she’s been injured by a punch. A facelift seems excessive, she looks OK from here. Maybe facelifts are what you do when you hit her age in NYC? Seems really odd, from here.

  135. 135
    Another Scott says:

    @J R in WV: This – Donnie punching her in the kidney – sounds far-fetched to me. He’s a coward. She’s 24 years younger than him. She slaps his hand away when he wants to hold hers. They supposedly don’t sleep in the same room. All those things together tell me that he’s very unlikely to have injured her that way.

    I assume the story we’ve been told is accurate – that she was treated for a benign kidney mass/tumor via an embolization. Maybe she was exhausted, or the mass had more blood vessels involved than usual, and they wanted to keep her as an inpatient under an abundance of caution. It’s unusual, sure.

    I assume she’ll be in DC until Barron is out of school, and then I expect her (and him) to return to NYC for the summer. But who knows, really.

    My $0.02.

    [eta: Oh, and I agree that a facelift makes no sense, either.]

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  136. 136
    jl says:

    Thanks for an informative post.
    Where did the goofy idea of ‘hostage’ nuclear warheads come from?

  137. 137
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @chopper: Getting a warhead with a significant yield onto a small missile that can cover significant distances requires some compromises. A fusion weapon has the secondary fusion stage off to one side of the spherical[1] fission core so it can be made pointy and easier to stack in a fairing along with other stuff like extra warheads and penetration aids (dummies, jammers etc.) but still produce yields in the 200 – 500 kT range. Compare and contrast with Little Boy and especially Fat Man which as weaponised were large and heavy and only produced yields of about 20 kT.

    The really big weapons (megatonne-plus yields) are triple-F — fission – fusion – fission with a heavy jacket of depleted uranium around the boosted fission core. After the first two stages have fired off the superfluity of neutrons cause breeding in the DU jacket making a lot of Pu-239 and fissioning some of it in the nanoseconds before everything gets converted to vapour and the density of the fissionable material decreases to the point where breeding and fissioning stops.

    [1]it’s possible nowadays to make a non-spherical implosion weapon design that is a better mechanical fit in a bomb casing or missile fairing. It requires a lot of computer modelling and sequencing of a very complex implosion lens to make it work and it takes more Pu-239 for a given yield. Supposedly it can also, by tweaking the implosion lens timing, produce a more directional yield but that’s something that’s not talked about much in the popular press.

  138. 138

    @jl: “Hostage” is my word, because the scheme sounds so much like what was worked out with children of kings back in the old days. It’s not clear where the idea comes from. I’m guessing it’s being floated by people in the Trump administration.

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