U.S. intelligence agencies are working to track down an alarming report from inside North Korea revealing that the communist regime is secretly developing underwater nuclear torpedoes and mines.
According to a newsletter run by dissident North Koreans, the report states that North Korea's government has a special group of researchers at the National Defense Technology Institute that is "developing underwater weapons using nuclear warheads." The report was published Dec. 3 by the Korean-language newsletter NK Chisigan Yondae, or NK Intellectual Solidarity.
The U.S. Navy once had nuclear torpedoes and mines, as did the Soviet navy, and China's military also has discussed the use of nuclear torpedoes in its military writings as recently as 2006.
The nuclear torpedo and mine program aimed at compensating for Pyongyang's high-technology gap with U.S. and South Korean firepower by using its nuclear arsenal, and North Korean sources told the newsletter that researchers in the country are concerned about the arms program.
The report quotes a government official in North Pyongan province, on the northeast border with China: "In March 2009, Institute 108 under Guidance Bureau 131 (General Bureau of Atomic Energy) launched a nuclear torpedo and mine research."
The official noted that "nuclear mines are technologically at a stage of completion, and the plan [is] to finish [developing] nuclear torpedoes by 2012."
The group running the nuclear mine program is called "Pongae," or Lightning Group, and the torpedo-development unit is the "Uroe," or Thunder Group.
The weapons research is being conducted by specialists from Institute 108, the facility involved in nuclear technology development. Others in the program belong to the Kusong Electronic Warfare Institute, along with other experts in torpedo and mine warfare.
The source was quoted as saying North Korea believes nuclear torpedos and mines will be capable of neutralizing South Korean and Japanese naval bases and U.S. aircraft carriers. The weapons also will provide a deterrent against U.S. military intervention in a second Korean conflict.
Asked about intelligence interest in reports of the underwater nuclear arms program, a U.S. intelligence official said: "Anything about possible North Korean technological developments is of interest to the intelligence community."
Richard Fisher, a military-affairs specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said, "It is a plausible development and the result of a 20-year, bipartisan unwillingness to defend ourselves from North Korea, Iran and their Chinese ally."
"China's strategy is simply to have us negotiate with North Korea and Iran until its nuclear weapons start to kill us," he told Inside the Ring. "If our leaders cannot now organize to end these threats and then deal with China, then we are condemned to an awful fate."
Disclosure of the underwater nuclear program follows North Korea's unveiling of a once-covert uranium-enrichment and centrifuge program last month.
It also comes amid new tensions in the region after North Korea's sinking in March of a South Korean warship with a torpedo, killing 46 South Korean sailors, and the recent artillery shelling of a border island that killed two South Korean marines and two civilian construction workers.
The report also follows disclosure by WikiLeaks of a document that indicates for the first time that a Chinese specialist told U.S. officials that North Korea has covert underwater nuclear facilities.
A Sept. 26, 2008, cable — labeled "secret" and based on a conversation with a Chinese specialist and a U.S. official in Shanghai — stated that North Korea failed to report "critical information about secret underwater nuclear facilities located on North Korea's coast."
The facilities were omitted in North Korea's May 2008 declaration of its nuclear programs made during the now-defunct six-party nuclear talks.
Amid the frenzy over the disclosure of more than 250,000 classified State Department cables, little media attention so far has been focused on the most likely origin of the cables: Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who Britain's Telegraph newspaper described as "openly homosexual" and who appeared motivated to illicitly download classified data after an argument with an ex-boyfriend.
The newspaper gained access to Pfc. Manning's Facebook account before it was apparently disabled and reported on July 30 that "pictures on Mr. Manning's Facebook page include photos of him … at a gay rights rally, where he is holding up a placard demanding equality on 'the battlefield.'"
The Army intelligence analyst stated in early May on the Facebook page, according to the Telegraph, that he was "livid" over being "lectured by ex-boyfriend" and that he was upset for being treated like a "piece of equipment." As a result, he stated he was "beyond frustrated with people and society at large."
Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army officer, said one of the questions raised about the massive intelligence failure in the case of the leaked documents is why no one in the Army noticed Pfc. Manning's sexual orientation, which under the current policy requires open homosexuals to be dismissed.
Mr. Maginnis said it is not clear what motivated Pfc. Manning.
"However, I'm most concerned that a PC [military] chain of command apparently knew this private was a homosexual and failed to seek discharge," Mr. Maginnis told Inside the Ring. "This is a byproduct of President Obama's call for repeal and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' endorsement. Officials up and down the chains-of-command saw the writing on the wall and virtually stopped discharges for homosexuality."
"Clearly, this young man is disturbed, and only his psychiatrist can determine whether his homosexual identity played a role in his alleged leaking," Mr. Maginnis said. "But this case should be watched to see whether Manning's homosexuality contributed to his actions."
Beijing's arms back terror
A State Department cable written in May 2008 has confirmed an earlier report in this column about how China had sold weapons to Iran that are being used by insurgents and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The May 13, 2008, cable called for the U.S. ambassador to China to protest Beijing's transfer of advanced conventional arms, including shoulder-fired missiles, to Iran.
"In April 2008, Coalition forces recovered from a cache in Basra, Iraq, at least two Chinese-produced Iranian-supplied QW-1 MANPADS that we assess were provided by Iran to Iraqi Shia militants," the report said. MANPADs is military jargon for man-portable air defense missiles.
"The date of production for the recovered QW-1 systems is 2003, but it is not known when these particular launchers were transferred by China to Iran or when the launchers entered Iraq."
The report said the State Department "demarched China repeatedly on its conventional arms transfers to Iran, urging Beijing to stop these transfers due to unacceptably high risk that such weapons would be diverted to militants and terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere."
The Chinese "typically responded" to the protests by saying the sales were legal under international law and that Iran promised not to re-export the arms, the cable said, noting that the Chinese response was disingenuous.
In talking points to be made to the Chinese, the cable said that "we have repeatedly raised with you our concerns regarding Iran's retransfer of Chinese-produced weapons to extremists and terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere."
In fact, Iran has begun producing the Misagh-1, a missile based on the Chinese QW-1, and in 2004 one of these Iranian missiles was fired at a civilian airliner, the cable said.
The statement strongly urged China to end all weapons sales to Iran under a U.N. Security Council resolution and to stop Iran from producing arms based on Chinese technology, including missiles. It also said China must insist that Iran stop illicit transfers of Chinese-origin weapons to terrorists.
The State Department also wanted China to insist that Iran account for all its Chinese weapons and to permit regular inspections in Iranian stockpiles.
Inside the Ring reported on June 14, 2007, that new intelligence showed China was covertly supplying large amounts of arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan through Iran.
The appeals by U.S. officials to halt the transfers were met with stonewalling by China.
The report disclosed that some Chinese arms were transferred by aircraft directly from Chinese factories to Afghanistan and included large-caliber sniper rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs, as well as other small arms.
The report also stated that Chinese-made HN-5 shoulder-fired missiles had been found in June 2007 in use by Taliban militants.
The Chinese arms that officials have said are being used to kill Americans in the region are another indicator of China's role in supporting anti-U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, contrary to Beijing's claims to be helping the U.S. war on terrorism.
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