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posted by takyon on Wednesday January 06 2016, @06:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the defense-against-american-imperialism dept.

North Korea Detonates First Hydrogen Bomb

The NYT reports that North Korea has announced it has detonated its first hydrogen bomb dramatically escalating the nuclear challenge from one of the world's most isolated and dangerous states. "This is the self-defensive measure we have to take to defend our right to live in the face of the nuclear threats and blackmail by the United States and to guarantee the security of the Korean Peninsula," said a female North Korean announcer on the state-run network. "With this hydrogen bomb test, we have joined the major nuclear powers." The North's announcement came about an hour after detection devices around the world had picked up a 5.1 seismic event that South Korea said was 30 miles from the Punggye-ri site where the North has conducted nuclear tests in the past.

"North Korea's fourth test — in the context of repeated statements by U.S., Chinese, and South Korean leaders — throws down the gauntlet to the international community to go beyond paper resolutions and find a way to impose real costs on North Korea for pursuing this course of action," says Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. According to the Times, the test is bound to figure in the American presidential campaign, where several candidates have already cited the North's nuclear experimentation as evidence of American weakness — though they have not prescribed alternative strategies for choking off the program. The United States did not develop its first thermonuclear weapons — commonly known as hydrogen bombs — until 1952, seven years after the first and only use of nuclear weapons in wartime.

The New York Times is reporting a claim made by the North Korean government in which is says that it has detonated a hydrogen bomb:

a claim that, if true, would dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world's most isolated and dangerous states.

In a brief announcement, about an hour after seismic detectors around the world picked up a 5.1 magnitude seismic event along the country's northeast cost, officials said that the test was a "complete success." But it is difficult to tell whether that boast is true, and it may be weeks or longer before detectors sent aloft by the United States and other powers can determine what kind of test was conducted.

The apparent North Korean test took place at or near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where the three previous tests have been conducted over the past nine years. But if the North Korean claim is true, this one was of a of a different nature.

Like most of the rest of the world who know something about the physics of these devices, I'm very skeptical of this claim, given that, even on a slow news day, the North Korean government has about as much credibility as the boy who cried wolf.

The Washington Free Beacon reports that North Korea successfully launched an ballistic missile from a submarine after a previous test had failed:

North Korea's military carried out a successful ejection test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile recently, an indication that an earlier test failure has not derailed the underwater missile program, U.S. defense officials said. The test of the submarine-launched missile, or SLBM, which the Pentagon has called the KN-11, from a submerged submarine on Dec. 21 took place near the port city of Sinpo, where the capability is being developed. The facility is located along the North Korean coast of the Sea of Japan.

The test followed a Nov. 28 ejection tube launch failure that damaged North Korea's first missile submarine, which officials identified as the Gorae, Korean for whale.

No additional details of the test could be learned, including whether the missile's engine ignited after the ejection or whether the missile took flight. North Korean state-run media did not publicize the latest test. In May, North Korea announced that its developmental SLBM was flight tested from what analysts believe was an underwater test platform. One official said that based on the latest successful ejection test, North Korea could be as little as a year away from deploying a submarine armed with a nuclear-tipped missile. Other analysts remain skeptical that the North Koreans can master the technology for submarine missile firings.

Also at Bloomberg and Reuters.


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3

Related Stories

North Korean Satellite in Stable Orbit; Plutonium Production Expanded 39 comments

The recently-launched North Korean satellite was reported to have been "tumbling in orbit", however the satellite's orbit has reportedly stabilized:

A satellite launched by North Korea at the weekend has now stabilized in its orbit around the Earth in a step forward from a launch in 2012, a U.S. official and a second source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. However, the satellite is not believed to be transmitting any data back to Earth, the second source said.

The satellite was initially tumbling in orbit but has now stabilized, making it more successful than a launch in 2012, which failed to achieve a stable orbit, said the first source, a U.S. official who did not want to be identified by name. "It's in a stable orbit now. They got the tumbling under control," the official said.

Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman with the U.S. Strategic Command, said the satellite had been in roughly the same orbit since its launch on Sunday. "If we see a dramatic change in altitude that could mean (the orbit) is going to decay," he said.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has warned that North Korea will soon have enough plutonium to build additional nuclear weapons following a resumption of reactor operations back in September.

Previously:
North Korea Reportedly Detonates Hydrogen Bomb, Following Submarine Missile Test
The Hunt for Secret Nuclear Tests Digs Up Scientific Gold


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by CirclesInSand on Wednesday January 06 2016, @06:55AM

    by CirclesInSand (2899) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @06:55AM (#285517)

    What do the Geiger Counters and Seismometers say?

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:01AM

      by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:01AM (#285521) Journal

      Have you not even bothered to read the summary, let alone any of the links?
      Of course you haven't.

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @10:42AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @10:42AM (#285560)

        Claims are not evidence. Detection of a seismic event is not evidence.

        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:33PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:33PM (#285579)

          Detection of a seismic event is not evidence.

          Of course it is.

          The only question is whether NK detonated a very large explosion (too large to be the result of chemical explosives), or whether they have an earthquake generator, or whether they waited until a convenient natural earthquake, of just the right size, in just the right location (where they have been busy preparing a nuclear bomb test site), and precisely on the half-hour, and then took advantage of their very good luck.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Dunbal on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:51PM

          by Dunbal (3515) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:51PM (#285585)

          Yes it is. Seismologists can tell the difference in wave types between a natural event and a nuclear detonation.

        • (Score: 1, Redundant) by deadstick on Wednesday January 06 2016, @01:48PM

          by deadstick (5110) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @01:48PM (#285604)

          evidence

          You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @11:16PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @11:16PM (#285886)

            Farts are are evidence that a holocaust is imminent.

    • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Wednesday January 06 2016, @11:57AM

      by TheRaven (270) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @11:57AM (#285574) Journal

      Why is this moderated troll? North Korea has a history of announcing weapons capabilities that they don't actually possess (remember the ICBM that they announced a successful test of, the day before they actually did the test, only to have it explode on takeoff?).

      --
      sudo mod me up
    • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Wednesday January 06 2016, @02:04PM

      by LoRdTAW (3755) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @02:04PM (#285615) Journal

      Not much. They are just machines.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Friday January 08 2016, @08:04PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Friday January 08 2016, @08:04PM (#286868) Journal
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:00AM

    by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:00AM (#285520) Journal

    Like most of the rest of the world who know something about the physics of these devices, I'm very skeptical of this claim, given that, even on a slow news day, the North Korean government has about as much credibility as the boy who cried wolf.

    We don't know if it was a hydrogen bomb or a run of the mill uranium bomb, but when you announce you are going to do it, and a 5.1 Richter scale event shows up its time to put the doubts aside.

    Now the submarine launch may or may not be real, in fact we discussed the prior test here on SN, and it was widely reported in the press at the time that the the launch was faked from a barge behind the sub.

    repeated statements by U.S., Chinese, and South Korean leaders — throws down the gauntlet to the international community to go beyond paper resolutions and find a way to impose real costs on North Korea for pursuing this course of action," says Scott Snyder

    How do you impose costs on a country that is already holding its entire population hostage?
    China bad mouths them occasionally, but if anybody made a move on them China would suddenly be on the NK side. There is essentially zero trade between NK and anyone else other than China already. Not much more to cut off.

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    • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:23AM

      by wonkey_monkey (279) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:23AM (#285540) Homepage

      but when you announce you are going to do it, and a 5.1 Richter scale event shows up its time to put the doubts aside.

      Events didn't happen in that order:

      The North's announcement came about an hour after detection devices around the world had picked up a 5.1 seismic event

      1. build fake nuclear research facility
      2. wait for earthquake
      3. ...
      4. profit!

      (no, I don't really think that's what happened)

      --
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      • (Score: 3, Funny) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @09:13AM

        by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @09:13AM (#285549) Journal

        See this story: in the Washington Post [washingtonpost.com]

        And also Here. [telegraph.co.uk]

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @10:46AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @10:46AM (#285561)

          One of those sources is a copy-paste-revise job of the other, right down to the photos. Neither says what you claim they say. Country leaders hinting or referencing does not equate to "Hey we have a hydrogen bomb and we are going to detonate it right here at 5:10 PM Tuesday."

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by VLM on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:52PM

          by VLM (445) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:52PM (#285588)

          Both stories are pretty useless.

          The biz plan is announce you have a h-bomb, wait till the next quake (it won't be too long) and then announce your successful test.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake [wikipedia.org]

          In the (low seismicity) United Kingdom, for example, it has been calculated that the average recurrences are: an earthquake of 3.7–4.6 every year, an earthquake of 4.7–5.5 every 10 years, and an earthquake of 5.6 or larger every 100 years.[35] This is an example of the Gutenberg–Richter law.

          The NK have been caught doing this exact thing before:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_North_Korean_nuclear_test [wikipedia.org]

          Historically its been proven beyond any doubt the NK are good at claiming responsibility natural earthquakes and the sudden disappearance of thousands of tons of agricultural fertilizer, all without any radiation leaks. That doesn't necessarily imply that for all time in the future, the thing that goes bang in NK won't ever be nuclear, surely some day it will. However, if it wasn't the last six times, it probably won't be the 7th time either.

          Its not quite that simple because you really can measure the depth of a quake very effectively because the wave propagation velocity and group delay vary ridiculously based on propagation mode which depends on where the bang happened WRT the numerous layers of the earth. So odds are that random earthquake #1 happened 50 miles down, and unless the NK have amazing drilling technology... also historically WRT the NK setting off a railroad train of several thousand tons of fertilizer in a tunnel makes a linear, nearly perfectly horizontal seismic source rather than a small defined point source from a nuke or loosely defined plane like many earthquakes.

          • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:27PM

            by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:27PM (#285791) Journal

            Your own wiki article says:

            The CTBTO radionuclide network later made a significant detection of radioactive noble gases that could be attributed to the nuclear test.

            after saying that Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean detectors had failed to detect radiation.

            The jury is still out on that one, other than to indicate that they tend to use very small devices.

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            • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:00PM

              by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:00PM (#285807) Journal

              IIRC, low yield devices are a lot more difficult to make than high to medium yield devices. So it makes sense to be skeptical. But presumably we'll have more reliable information in a day or two, and can then decide whether or not it's convincing.

              (OTOH, there's also the possibility that they bought it from somebody. It could be a "liberated" Russian device. And there's no way any information from instruments would reliably reveal that. Or how many more they have. Or what their expiration date was.)

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    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:34AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:34AM (#285542)

      It seems that all these penny-ante countries do is taunt the US with firearms and nuclear weapons.

      If they really wanted to get the US pissed off, I suggest they do copyright infringement.

      Otherwise, all the USA will do is wag pens and hold conferences.

    • (Score: 2) by mendax on Wednesday January 06 2016, @09:43AM

      by mendax (2840) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @09:43AM (#285553)

      We don't know if it was a hydrogen bomb or a run of the mill uranium bomb, but when you announce you are going to do it, and a 5.1 Richter scale event shows up its time to put the doubts aside.

      It could have just been a convenient earthquake that the North Koreans have taken advantage of.

      --
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      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:38PM

        by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:38PM (#285796) Journal

        Yeah, I suppose, but not likely, in that the area of the epicenter is not known for many earthquakes. [tinyurl.com] (Tiny url leads to USGS earthquake map.

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        • (Score: 2) by mendax on Wednesday January 06 2016, @09:14PM

          by mendax (2840) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @09:14PM (#285841)

          Good point.

          --
          It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
  • (Score: 2) by Tork on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:02AM

    by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:02AM (#285522)
    What sort of energy is needed to cause that particular 5.1? You'd think even a heavily sensationalized media like ours would give us some sort of context.
    --
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    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:11AM

      by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:11AM (#285523) Journal

      If you don't believe OUR Media, maybe you should get on your computer and find some OTHER media and see what they say.

      5.1 on the Richter scale is pretty hard to fake, even it it would be small as nukes go.

      http://www.jclahr.com/alaska/aeic/magnitude/energy.txt [jclahr.com]

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      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:35AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:35AM (#285530)

        If I'm reading the linked table correctly, 5.1 would be in the range of a 0.5-kiloton detonation, about 1/30th the yield of the Hiroshima nuclear blast (15-kiloton). Maybe more like 0.6kt but basically pretty small and well within the range of conventional explosives to generate (500-600 tons of TNT or equivalent).

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:16AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:16AM (#285537)

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_magnitude_scale#Nuclear_explosions [wikipedia.org]

          Such comparison figures are not very meaningful. As with earthquakes, during an underground explosion of a nuclear weapon, only a small fraction of the total amount of energy released ends up being radiated as seismic waves. Therefore, a seismic efficiency needs to be chosen for the bomb that is being quoted in this comparison. Using the conventional specific energy of TNT (4.184 MJ/kg), the above formula implies that about 0.5% of the bomb's energy is converted into radiated seismic energy E_s. For real underground nuclear tests, the actual seismic efficiency achieved varies significantly and depends on the site and design parameters of the test.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:29AM

          by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:29AM (#285541) Journal

          If I'm reading the linked table correctly, 5.1 would be in the range of a 0.5-kiloton detonation, about 1/30th the yield of the Hiroshima nuclear blast (15-kiloton). Maybe more like 0.6kt but basically pretty small.

          This page seems to agree: http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2013/06/07/a-modest-proposal/ [nuclearsecrecy.com]
          Key in 5.1 in the Richter line.

          5.1 on the Richter Scale is equivalent to 44.91 milli-Hiroshima-equivalents.
          Or .67 Kilotons of TNT.

          As this other wiki page [wikipedia.org] says,
          that

          Using the conventional specific energy of TNT (4.184 MJ/kg), the above formula implies that about 0.5% of the bomb's energy is converted into radiated seismic energy.

          Which suggests that the seismic event only captures a small percentage of the total blast.
          I suppose that might also be true of conventional explosives.

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          • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:58PM

            by Dunbal (3515) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:58PM (#285591)

            The seismic shock from the Tsar bomba, the larges hydrogen bomb ever detonated, was 5.2 on the richter scale. Of course that was an air-burst at around 10,000 feet not detonated on the ground or even "in" the ground. It's not easy to extrapolate yield from seismic activity there are many variables. If this was an underground test then it's safe to say most of the energy was taken up by the ground. If it was an above ground test most of the energy would be released in the atmosphere. If it was underwater, you'd expect most of the energy to be taken up by the ocean itself, not the ground.

            • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:54PM

              by frojack (1554) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:54PM (#285804) Journal

              While all of that is true, there is usually a distinct difference in the seismic wave structure generated by a earthquake and an explosion. The instantaneous pulse of any kind of explosion stands out from the crescendo formation of actual quakes.
              http://seismo.berkeley.edu/blog/seismoblog.php/2009/05/25/of-nuclear-bombs-and-earthquakes [berkeley.edu]
              (And, no, I haven't yet seen any seismographs of the NK event).

              The are of the epicenter has been used previously for tests, its a mountainous area of fairly rocky nature.

              --
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          • (Score: 2) by Nollij on Thursday January 07 2016, @02:50AM

            by Nollij (4559) on Thursday January 07 2016, @02:50AM (#285928)

            Since we're used to seeing things with ridiculous units of measurement, how many Mythbusters Cement Trucks is that?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:45AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:45AM (#285533)

        If you don't believe OUR Media [about quake size per bomb type], maybe you should get on your computer and find some OTHER media

        Or just run The Sims, Thermonuclear Edition.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:28AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:28AM (#285528) Journal
      Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] caps it at around 45 kilotons.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @08:16AM (#285539)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_magnitude_scale#Nuclear_explosions [wikipedia.org]

      Such comparison figures are not very meaningful. As with earthquakes, during an underground explosion of a nuclear weapon, only a small fraction of the total amount of energy released ends up being radiated as seismic waves. Therefore, a seismic efficiency needs to be chosen for the bomb that is being quoted in this comparison. Using the conventional specific energy of TNT (4.184 MJ/kg), the above formula implies that about 0.5% of the bomb's energy is converted into radiated seismic energy Es. For real underground nuclear tests, the actual seismic efficiency achieved varies significantly and depends on the site and design parameters of the test.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:28AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @07:28AM (#285529)

    it's so easy to get the design from Wikipedia [wikimedia.org]

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by looorg on Wednesday January 06 2016, @10:31AM

    by looorg (578) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @10:31AM (#285557)

    Isn't this SOP for Lil' Kim? He tests a bomb, he gets free stuff. He promises he will never do it again. He enjoys that for a bit. But then he gets bored or there is some internal problem in his communist wonderland he and needs a diversion (or help) and he sets of another bomb and the cycle starts over again?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:57PM

      by VLM (445) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @12:57PM (#285590)

      Firing up the empathy, Isn't that the hottest possible cold war they can carry out? Is there any way he could damage/fight the SK more effectively? Hot war wouldn't cause more total damage because the SK would wipe them out after suffering massive short term damage...

      I'm just saying if we made a wargame out of it, if you were stuck as the NK player, is there any game strategy that would result in a higher score for the NK or damage the SK more? It would be risky on a personal level for the leaders to say "F it lets scrap it all and try western crony-capitalist psuedo-democracy" because the first thing they'd do the the existing leadership would be lining them up in front of a firing squad.

      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday January 06 2016, @02:41PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @02:41PM (#285634)

        It would be risky on a personal level for the leaders to say "F it lets scrap it all and try western crony-capitalist psuedo-democracy" because the first thing they'd do the the existing leadership would be lining them up in front of a firing squad.

        The North Korean leadership would line themselves up to be shot?

        --
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        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday January 06 2016, @04:06PM

          by VLM (445) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @04:06PM (#285689)

          Someone would be lining them up the day after they tried "western crony-capitalist psuedo-democracy", anyway.

          Hard to say if it would be their own people, the Chinese, or the SK. I guess whoever got to them first.

    • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Wednesday January 06 2016, @02:09PM

      by LoRdTAW (3755) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @02:09PM (#285616) Journal

      It's probably his way of getting more aid money. China, Russia, SK and everyone else want nothing to do with millions of brainwashed NK zombies; it's in their best interest to keep the money flowing. Lil Kim just wants more so he puts on a little show and watches the money roll in.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Geezer on Wednesday January 06 2016, @01:19PM

    by Geezer (511) on Wednesday January 06 2016, @01:19PM (#285599)

    The puny estimated 10kt yield, based on the raw seismic data, is damn near below the threshold for a Teller-Ulam device. Far more likely: 1) a convenient earthquake 2) a rudimentary fission device or 3) a fizzle.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @03:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06 2016, @03:44PM (#285668)

    just imagine a hydrogen device that needs no hyper-enriched uranium. MAD for the masses!
    no need for extensive and expensive machinery to dig out, transport and "enrich" uranium.
    just run some battery through plain tap water and then ...
    -
    anyways, for some conspiracy sh1t, my guess is that actually japan and korea are more alike and friends, then
    say japan-korea and china -or- japan-korea versus the rest of the world.

    i'm not saying that they're best buddies, but if there were a situation were a korean (or japanese) could save one
    person to survive himself and he got to pick either a korean/japanese to save or a chinese or american i think they would ...

    so after getting this out of the way, the conspiracy is so that even though japan and s.korea have to make a big
    fuss about n.koreas power-mongering, in secret they are happy somebody "close to them (in philosophy, world view, etc)"
    is doing this research and experimentation.

    you know .. "somehow" this information/insights is going to leak over some sake or soju and ... comfort women ^_^

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07 2016, @03:12AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07 2016, @03:12AM (#285931)

      Nothing too conspiratorial about this. I remember how about 15 years ago Stratfor aka Shadow CIA wrote that South Korea will be glad to inherit nuke designs from the North after inevitable reunification.