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Nuclear test alert

U.S. and allied intelligence agencies are closely watching North Korea for signs of a third underground nuclear test in the remote northeastern part of the country.

So far, spy satellites have not detected increased activities or communications that would indicate preparations for a nuclear test at the Hwadae-ri nuclear test site and training facility in Kilju County, North Hamgyong province, the northernmost state, according to U.S. officials.

One Western diplomat said with certainty that North Korea “will conduct another nuclear test.” The assessment is based on threats last week in official state media in Pyongyang in response to U.S.-South Korean naval exercises in the East Sea/Sea of Japan.

North Korea conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, prompting international condemnation and U.N. sanctions. North Korea had agreed to dismantle all nuclear arms and infrastructure, as part of the now-defunct six-nation nuclear talks.

South Korea’s presidential office also said on Wednesday that the government there is braced for a North Korean-origin cyber-attack. “The National Cyber Security Center obtained intelligence on a possible cyber-attack from North Korea,” Blue House spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung said.

On Saturday, the National Defense Commission of North Korea, headed by Kim Jong-il, issued a statement that threatened a North Korean “retaliatory sacred war” in response to joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises in the East Sea/Sea of Japan. The statement said “the more desperately the U.S. imperialists brandish their nukes … the more rapidly the [North Korean] nuclear deterrence will be bolstered up along the orbit of self-defense.”

START treaty flaws

Keith B. Payne, a former Pentagon specialist on nuclear deterrence, testified before the Senate on Tuesday that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), now facing a difficult ratification debate, will constrain U.S. strategic forces and weaken the flexibility of nuclear and other forces to counter varied threats.

r. Payne also revealed that the New START contains so many loopholes that Russia’s strategic forces, which already were declining because of aging systems, will be unconstrained by the treaty at a time when Moscow is building up it nuclear forces.

Russia is nearing deployment of a new long-range, air-launched nuclear cruise missile, and is adding multiple warheads to its mobile SS-27 ICBM, Mr. Payne said. Moscow also is committed to building a new strategic bomber, a new 3,100-mile range submarine-launched cruise missile, and a new heavy ICBM, he said.

Russian reports also indicate that Moscow is planning a new rail-mobile ICBM and a new air-launched ICBM that would not be covered by the new treaty.

Even under the New START, Russia could legally deploy 2,100 warheads because of lax counting rules, Mr. Payne said.

“An important consideration in this regard is that the treaty’s ceilings appear not to require real Russian nuclear force reductions in the near term, and its loopholes and extreme permissiveness would not prevent the renewal of Russian strategic capabilities over time,” Mr. Payne told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“A treaty that could reduce U.S. flexibility and resilience but not require real Russian cuts nor preclude a future Russian strategic renewal merits close Senate scrutiny.”

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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