Sunday, March 29, 2009
NORTH KOREAN MISSILE LAUNCH, IRANIAN HELP & PAKISTANI CENTRIFUGES IN COFFIN ABOARD NORTH KOREAN AIRLINES
One of the most important geo-political event to take place in the coming week is the launch of Taepodong 3-stage missile from North Korea.
Let us look back to July 2006 – when North Korea last started preparing to launch Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile.
The US which had trumpeted the need for missile defense, had begun deploying the first interceptors at a base in Alaska. Bush and Rumsfeld ordered the military to try to blow the North Korean missile out of the sky.
ADM. TIMOTHY J KEATING
The man put in charge of the efforts was Adm. Timothy J Keating, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command. For six weeks in the summer of 2006, the military had prepared to launch ground based anti-missile interceptors from Vandenberg Air Force base in central California and from Fort Greely, the Army launch site about 100 miles south east of Fairbanks, Alaska. The idea was to blow up the Taepodong over the Pacific, demonstrating that America’s missile defenses were a real first line of defense against rogue states.
CLICK ON IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW
It was a huge risk as tests of missile defense system had often ended in embarrassing failures. Yet, Rusfeld and other enthusiasts of the missile defense system, there might not be another opportunity as good one to test out the system. After all the North Koreans were not shooting up several warheads to overwhelm the missile defense system, nor did the missile have the sophistication to spew out chaff and decoys that could fool the antimissile interceptors.
The main US worry was what was in the cone of the missile – was it a dummy load, a satellite or a weaponized warhead? The US had to assume the worst and were prepared to launch interceptor missiles.
On JuLy 4th 2006, the Taepodong missile left its launchpad – Keating and Rumsfeld had between five and fifteen minutes to decide whether to launch the interceptors to take out the Taepodong. Satellites detected the launch at 4:01 pm, but Keating and Rumsfeld never got to test their prized new system. Forty two seconds into the flight, the Taepodong broke up, either because of a launch failure or because of the North Koreans aborted the flight.
North Koreans tried to cover this embarrassment by calling the Chinese embassy on October 9th the same year of an impending nuclear explosion. At 11:36 am, Pyongyang time, the US Geological Survey picked up a 4.2 magnitude quake on the Korean peninsula. The blast was not much more impressive than the Taepodong launch. It was nearly a dud and many suspect it was not a real bomb at all, but just a small controlled nuclear explosion. The yield was below a kiloton.
The contours of the North Korean nuclear program was hardly a secret to the US. While the plutonium path was known, the US started getting evidence that North Korea was buying equipment for a secret, undeclared program to enrich uranium – an alternative path to the bomb. The CIA had tracked shipments from Russia of aluminum tubes which are critical working part of a modern gas centrifuge. There were close to a hundred other items related to uranium enrichment that analysts had followed. Some of them came aboard a cargo plane commandeered by A.Q. Khan.
In July 2008, AQ Khan publicly stated for the first time about sending centrifuges to North Korea. He told “It was a North Korean plan and the Pakistani army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment.”
In June 2008, the North Koreans blew up the cooling tower at Yongbyon. However, in characteristic North Korean style, they tore the seals off their reprocessing facility and announced they would resume making bomb fuel.
As stated in an earlier article both North Koreans and Pakistanis realized that US / NATO do not mess with countries who have nuclear arsenals and they can pretty much bargain for food / money / aid by feigning to go into abyss from time to time to deflect mounting pressure from US.
Did North Koreans conduct nuclear explosion in Pakistan?
On June 10, 1998, an Air Koryo chartered plane took off the runway of the Islamabad International Airport of Pakistan. No one had anticipated the significance of this Pyongyang-bound flight in the affairs of the Korean peninsula. On board the plane were the 20 North Korean nuclear scientists who had conducted an underground nuclear test at Pakistan's Balochistan nuclear test site. In addition, the plane was loaded with the nuclear test equipment and test data.
Pakistan has conducted six nuclear tests. On May 28, 1998, Pakistan exploded 5 nuclear devices simultaneously at the Chagal Hills (Ras Koh range) nuclear test site. One of the devices was a boosted fission device. Two days later, a 14 KT nuclear device was tested at the Balochistan test site. This device is believed to be a plutonium bomb flown in from North Korea.
The people of Pakistan were relieved and overjoyed at the news of Pakistani nuclear tests in the aftermath of India's nuclear tests of the same scale (including a boosted bomb) a few days earlier. In stark contrast to the festive mood prevailing in Pakistan, the dark cloud of American spy planes and satellites shadowed the Pakistani nuclear facilities, and a horde of US CIA and DIA agents swarmed to Pakistan's capital.
Pyongyang had no time to celebrate its Balochistan nuclear test success because it had the daunting task of extracting its nuclear scientists, test equipment and test data safely from Pakistan. Hundreds of American spies and agents were out to grab North Korean scientists and nuclear materials. Even if the plane took off safely, it might have been shot down or forced to land by American planes.
North Korea had anticipated dirty plays by the Americans and worked out detailed counter measures for the safe return of its nuclear assets. Little has been published about this super secret operation. Several American news articles have revealed certain aspects of the operation, however.
The Los Angeles Times has published two articles related to the operation. On June 7, 1998, one week after the Balohsitan test, a gunshot rang out in the darkness of the night in the exclusive residential district of Islamabad. The district referred to as "E-7" is for high-ranking military officers and nuclear scientists, and as such, it is highly secured. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, lives in the district. In fact, the gun was fired only a few meters from Dr. Khan's residence. The victim was Kim Sa-nae, a North Korean woman. There was no eyewitness and Pakistani plainclothes men investigated the incidence. Kim Sa-nae was reportedly well-known for her cold-noodles, a famed North Korean dish.
Kim's death was duly reported on Pakistani newspapers but few paid attention at the time, when the news of the nuclear tests dominated the news at the time. The Pakistanis said that Kim Sa-nae was a North Korean diplomat. Her mysterious murder was forgotten until the Los Angeles Times picked it up one year later. The Los Angeles Times story went far beyond what was reported by the Pakistanis. It had some sinister twists added to the unsolved 'murder'.
1). The Pakistani police refused to disclose the true identity of Kim Sa-nae. The US intelligence claims that Kim was the wife of Kang Thae-yun, a mid-level staff member at the North Korean Embassy in Pakistan, and that Kang was in fact an agent of North Korea's Chang-kwang Trading Company, which sells weapons overseas. The Americans claim that Kang was no diplomat - he was a weapons salesman. Kang left Pakistan one month after Kim's death. On the other hand, the Pakistanis claim that Kim Sa-nae was one of the twenty North Korean nuclear scientists, who were staying at the guest house of Dr. Khan's residence when Kim was shot.
2). The Pakistani police has not disclosed the murderer of Kim Sa-nae. There have been three different speculations. One says that a cook working next door to Dr. Khan borrowed a gun from a guard and fired it by accident. The second story says that one of Dr. Khan's neighbors fired his gun accidentally while cleaning it. Dr. Khan has stated that Kim's death was accidental. In contrast, the American intelligence claims that Kim Sa-nae was an American spy and provided information on North Korea's nuclear tests to the Western intelligence agents, and that she was killed while trying to defect.
3). The Los Angeles Times article claims no autopsy was done on Kim's body and that the Pakistani police was told to close the book on her case. The American intelligence claims that her body was returned to Pyongyang on June 10th, four days after her murder on a Pakistani cargo plane, and that her coffin contained two centrifuge machines for enriching uranium and associated manuals. In those days, Air Koryo had two flights per month to Islamabad. In fact, an Air Koryo plane was at Islamabad at the time of Kim's murder. Then, why would Kim's body be on a Pakistani plane?
The truth is most likely that there was no Kim Sa-nae. She was made up by North Korea to create confusion to cover up the extraction of its nuclear assets. On the other hand, the Americans went along to hammer in their claim that Pakistan provided enriched uranium technology to North Korea (and therefore, North Korea 'has' an enriched uranium nuclear program).
The Kim Sa-nae 'murder' was a fabrication to draw away American spies in Pakistan from the imminent departure of the Air Koryo plane carrying North Korean nuclear scientists, test equipment and test data. It was a cat and mouse game, in which North Korea won.
Cut back to present : March – April 2009.
The new player in the block this time is Japan which is probably trying to test its expensive missile defense shield. Japan's Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Friday ordered the Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) to prepare to destroy any ballistic missile fired from North Korea if it looks like hitting the country.
Many believe that under the pretext of a satellite launch, North Korea is poised to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile to boost national prestige ahead of the Supreme People's Assembly starting on April 9. This date is also the 16th anniversary of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il's rise to chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea.
There is widespread speculation among military experts that North Korea will launch a third-stage version of the newly developed Taepodong-2 missile, which has a range of up to 8,000 kilometers. Many countries, such as the United States and South Korea, are concerned that a successful test-firing will provide Pyongyang with the capability for inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force is deploying the Kongou and the Chokai - the two Aegis-equipped ballistic missile defense (BMD) destroyers fitted with SM-3 missiles among Japan's six Aegis-equipped destroyers - to the Sea of Japan. One Japanese Aegis-equipped destroyer called Kirishima will also be sent to the Pacific to detect and track the North Korean projectile's path and to collect data on it to figure out whether it is a satellite or a missile. Kirishima has no ability to intercept it.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force will shift its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) ground-based interceptor missiles currently deployed at the Hamamatsu base in Shizuoka prefecture to Japan Ground Self-Defense Force bases in Akita and Iwate prefectures in northeastern Japan, where rocket debris from a failed launch might fall.
Japan's BMD Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) can intercept inter-continental ballistic missiles at an altitude of about 100 kilometers and the PAC-3 has a range of about 20 kilometers. Thus, the ground-based PAC-3 is responsible for the lower range of the shield and is designed to intercept incoming missiles the SM-3 misses.
Hence the difference this time (2006 LAUNCH VS 2009):
1. Japan is the front runner to shoot down the missile this time, with US giving backup
2. Probably a 3 stage Taepodong and a more confident North Koreans this time
THE IRANIAN HELP THIS TIME - THE OTHER MAJOR DIFFERENCE:
Japan's Sankei Shimbun newspaper claimed that a 15-strong delegation from Tehran has been in the country advising the North Koreans since the beginning of March 2009.
The experts include senior officials from the Iranian rocket and satellite producer Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, the newspaper said.
The Iranians brought a letter from President Ahmadinejad to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il stressing the importance of co-operating on space technology.
If the missile is a failure or is aborted, this will result in serious embarrassment for the North Koreans. And if the launch is a success and Japan and US fail to intercept the missile – it will be an embarrassment for them.
Either which way, someone is going to be embarrassed with this launch going ahead . We will have to wait and see what happens.
Assuming that the launch is a success and Japan manages to shoot the missile down, the region can very quickly descend into an abyss with unknown consequences. While North Korea will not launch any nuclear strike as the military leadership there knows (as I suspect our Pakistani military counterparts know) that in that event their life expectancy will be like that of a FIREFLY.
What North Koreans might well do is to have another nuclear blast, this time going above the 1 kiloton level to regain respectability. And when it does, the world can clap the Pakistanis for it.
CHAKLALA AIRBASE - CLOSE TO J&K
While the world pays attention to AQ Khan, the person more important is Khalid Kidwai – the keeper of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals. Kidwai oversees the entire security structure meant to keep Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fuels out of the hands of its enemies. Kidwai is based about three-quarters of a mile down the road from Chaklala military base, within the walls of the garrison and barely marked in a small compound for Strategic Plans.
His schooling was from Sargodha – a place that remains important to him as Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is stored there and nearby. Sargodha airbase can be seen on the map above, to the left of Lahore.
On Nov . 23, 1971 when war broke out with India, Kidwai then a young second lieutenant was captured and held as a prisoner of war for two years in Allahabad.
And the world is paying the price for India releasing one more Pakistani from its jails.
One must remember that Bush included North Korea in the axis of evil only to make it look kosher – as he is supposed to have said – we cannot have all three countries in Axis of Evil to be coming from the Islamic world. Pakistan which gave the nuclear technology to the so-called Axis of Evil, itself continues to dodge the stigma of an evil empire – however it knows and the world knows how Pakistan is being looked at in the hushed corridors of powers.
The success or failure of Taepodong will reverberate in the corridors of India and Pakistan too – it will be fascinating to watch for the drama to unfold in the next few days.