News / Asia

No 'Smoking Gun' from Last Month's North Korea Nuclear Test

Screen grab shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) pointing to a South Korean island during a trip to an artillery unit on Wolnae Island near the disputed maritime frontier with South Korea, March 12, 2012.
Screen grab shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) pointing to a South Korean island during a trip to an artillery unit on Wolnae Island near the disputed maritime frontier with South Korea, March 12, 2012.
Reuters
A month after North Korea's nuclear test, a monitoring agency said on Tuesday it was highly unlikely to find any "smoking gun" radioactive traces from the blast, potentially leaving key questions about the device unresolved.

The lack of this kind of scientific evidence may make it difficult to determine what fissile material was used in the isolated Asian state's third nuclear test, which was detected by seismic monitors.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which has a global network of monitoring stations designed to pick up radioactive traces emitted from tests, said it had yet to find any such signs.

"It is very unlikely that we will register anything at this point ... at this late stage," CTBTO spokeswoman Annika Thunborg said.

Thunborg did not give details, but the failure to detect radioactive traces could indicate that North Korea managed to prevent any such release from the Feb. 12 underground explosion.

The test-ban treaty was negotiated in the 1990s but has not taken effect because some holders of nuclear technology have not yet ratified it, including the United States and China.

But the organization already monitors possible breaches, deploying more than 270 stations worldwide to look out for signs of atomic tests, including seismic waves and radioactive traces.

It can take weeks to pick up radioactive so-called noble gases, depending on the weather.
        
"We are confident that the system works very well," Thunborg said. A senior CTBTO official last month said the "smoking gun" of any nuclear test would be the detection of radionuclide traces.

One critical question is what kind of fissile material North Korea used in the latest test. In 2006 and 2009, it is believed to have used plutonium as the fissile core.

North Korea abandoned plutonium production in 2007, following international pressure, but later acknowledged that it had built facilities to produce enriched uranium, which can also be used in bombs if refined to a high degree.

Without the trace evidence, however, U.S. and allied officials have said it would be very difficult for outsiders to determine whether the latest test involved a plutonium or uranium core.

North Korea's Leader Visits Coastal Detachment

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea, March 11, 2013. (KCNA)
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a long-range artillery sub-unit of the Korean People's Army Unit 641, March 11, 2013. (KCNA)
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds a guitar during his visit to a military unit on the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island, South Korea, March 11, 2013. (KCNA)
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves while in a boat during his visit to the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA)

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More