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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid