Tag Archives: January 2016 North Korea DPRK Nuclear Test

North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Why India Should be Worried

The Deccan Herald, February 5, 2016

Arun Vishwanathan and S. Chandrashekar, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru

DHNorth Korea is great at making news. Given that it is the only country to test nuclear weapons in this century, it does not have to try too hard. Just as the world was getting over the euphoria of ringing in the New Year, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6, 2016. It is crucial that the international community moves beyond its usual round of statements criticising the North Korea nuclear test and takes hard measures, beginning with strong economic sanctions, which could make Pyongyang come to the negotiating table. New Delhi needs to monitor the development closely for links between North Korea and Pakistan given that the relationship could adversely affect India’s security.

The authors are faculty members in ISSSP, NIAS, Bengaluru

To read the complete article click here

Rising Powers Respond to North Korean Hydrogen Bomb Test

Rising Powers Initiative, George Washington University, January 14, 2016

Rising Powers InitiativeThe Rising Powers Initiative at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University (GWU) quotes the recent ISSSP, NIAS Report by Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, LV Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan analysing the North Korean 2016 nuclear test. The GWU  Policy alert is a round up of how South Korea, China, Japan, India, Russia and Brazil responded to the North Korean nuclear test. The article mentions the link between the Pakistani and North Korean missile and nuclear programme that the ISSSP report had raised and how these developments are a concern for India. 

To read the complete ISSSP Report click here

To read the complete GWU article click here

The Logic of North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions

Council on Foreign Relations, January 12, 2016

CFRThe Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) quotes the recent ISSSP Report by Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, LV Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan analysing the North Korean 2016 nuclear test. The CFR article is an interview of Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Amy Nelson. The article mentions the link between the Pakistani and North Korean missile and nuclear programme that the ISSSP Report had raised. It also states the conclusion that the DPRK test in all likelihood might have been a fission and not a fusion device.

To read the complete ISSSP Report click here

To read the complete CFR article click here

 

No radiation from N. Korea’s test yet detected in China, ROK

NK News, January 13, 2016

NKNewsThe recent ISSSP Report by Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, LV Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan analysing the North Korean 2016 nuclear test was quoted by NK News in a story entitled “No radiation from N. Korea’s test yet detected in China, ROK.” The story analysed whether radionuclide monitoring will be able to confirm or deny whether North Korea tested a thermonuclear device on January 6, 2016.

To read the complete ISSSP Report click here

To read the complete article click here

North Korea’s 2016 Nuclear Test: An Analysis

North Korea’s 2016 Nuclear Test: An Analysis

Authors: Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, L.V. Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan

To read the complete report click here

To cite: Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, L.V. Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan. North Korea’s 2016 Nuclear Test: An Analysis. ISSSP Report No. 1-2016. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, January 10, 2016 available at http://isssp.in/north-koreas-2016-nuclear-test-an-analysis/


DPRK Nuclear Test Report CoverOn January 6, 2016, two days short of Kim JongUn’s birthday, the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted its fourth nuclear test. The test took place at 10:30 AM Local Time (01:30:00 UTC). An analysis of the seismic data from the test, clearly points to the fact that the earthquake (with a magnitude of 4.85 on the Richter scale) was the result of a nuclear test and not due to a natural earthquake. North Korea released a statement following the test which claimed that it had conducted a nuclear test and had exploded its first H-bomb.

North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. the first test in October 2006 with a yield of ~1kT was a fizzle. This was followed by the second test in May 2009. Though there are differences over the exact yield of the test with estimates ranging from 2.4 kT to 5 kT it is considered to be a success. The third test in February 2013 had a yield around 10 kT.

It has been estimated that the four North Korean tests were conducted in the same area. Thus, it can safely be assumed that the overall geology in the area will be similar. This is an important fact which will allow for the comparison of the seismic signals of this test with those of the earlier tests.

Given the similarities in the seismic signatures of the 2013 and 2016 tests, it would be logical to conclude that the yield of the 2013 and the 2016 nuclear tests will be close to each other. While seismic data confirms that a nuclear device was tested, additional evidence is needed to confirm that it was a thermonuclear device.

While expert opinion around the world seems to be veering towards the view that the 2016 test was indeed that of a fission device, from a purely technical point of view one cannot rule out the possibility that the test was that of a small thermonuclear device. Radionuclide Monitoring is the smoking gun which establishes beyond all doubt that a nuclear weapon was tested and enables an analysis of the nature of the weapon tested.

Can North Korean missiles reach the United States?

Regardless of the type of the nuclear device tested, the very fact that North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test is dangerous. With four nuclear tests, Pyongyang is moving towards the capability to successfully miniaturize a nuclear warhead which would be deliverable by long-range nuclear missiles. If so, can North Korea target their main perceived enemy, the United States?

In this context it is important to take a closer look at the North Korea’s successful launch of a remote sensing satellite and placing it in a sun-synchronous orbit on December 12, 2012 on the Unha launch vehicle.

Though the North Korean Unha is designed as a space launcher, it can be suitably modified into a ballistic missile. Trajectory analysis using the NIAS trajectory modelling software – Quo Vadis – shows that a due North East launch of the Unha from a suitable location with a 1000kg payload (sufficient to carry a nuclear warhead) can reach all of Alaska and some parts of northern Canada. 

Click here to download KMZ file for 1000kg payload and Azimuth of 25 degrees.

Based on NIAS Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation for 1000kg Payload, Azimuth 25 degrees

Based on NIAS Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation Software for 1000kg Payload, Azimuth 25 degrees

With further reduction of the mass of the payload to say 800kg and launching at an Azimuth of 40 degrees, a North Korean ballistic missile will just be able to reach parts of western coast of the continental United States including the states of Washington, Oregon and northern parts of California.

Click here to download KMZ file for 800kg payload and Azimuth of 40 degrees.

Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation for 800kg Payload, Azimuth 40 degrees

Based on NIAS Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation Software for 800kg Payload, Azimuth 40 degrees

International Implications of the North Korean Test

The test is an indicator that Beijing does not have complete control over the actions of its North Korean ally. China would also be obviously concerned about a nuclear neighbor whose behavior is difficult to manage. Given this situation China would have doubts about North Korea’s role as a friendly buffer state between China and US dominated South Korea. This development would strengthen the US position vis-à-vis the China-Korea-US dynamic.

Implications of the North Korean Test for India

Though North Korea is geographically far away from India its growing nuclear weapon capabilities are of direct concern. This arises largely because of the close coupling of the Pakistani and North Korean missile and nuclear weapons programmes. There is no doubt that the Ghauri missile is a copy of the North Korean Nodong missile.

There is also evidence that Pakistani nuclear scientists have visited North Korea and had discussions with them.

Pakistan had tested nuclear devices in 1998. All of them were Uranium based devices which are more difficult to miniaturize. Though Pakistan has a major Plutonium based weapons development programme for miniaturization, the fact that it has not tested a Plutonium based device does not lend credibility to its miniaturization claims.

In light of the links between North Korea and Pakistan it is likely that the North Korean Plutonium based tests serve as surrogate tests for the Pakistani miniaturization drive. This has direct security implications for India.


About the Authors

Arun Vishwanathan is Assistant Professor in the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. He can be reached at arun_summerhll[at]yahoo.com

S. Chandrashekar is is JRD Tata Chair Professor in the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. He can be reached at chandrashekar.schandra[at]gmail.com

L.V. Krishnan retired as Director of Safety Research and Health Physics Programmes at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam in 1997. He is Adjunct Faculty, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies. He can be contacted at krishnan97[at]gmail[dot]com

Lalitha Sundaresan is is Visiting Professor in the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. She can be reached at chandrashekar.schandra[at]gmail.com


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