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Gregory R. Copley

Gregory R. Copley

Historian, author, and strategic analyst — and onetime industrialist — Gregory R. Copley, who was born in 1946, has for almost five decades worked at…

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DPRK Test Nuclear Weapon Destined for Iran

All intelligence indicators received and processed by GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs show that the nuclear weapon tested by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK: North Korea) on February 12, 2013, was paid for, and intended for, the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was, in essence, a test of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and involved scientific as well as financial involvement by the Iranian Government. Moreover, the weapon was not — as some media reporting has averred — a “step toward” a North Korean or Iranian nuclear weapons capability: it was in fact a demonstration of a common DPRK and Iranian operationally-ready nuclear weapon.

Just as DPRK officials indicated long before the first North Korean nuclear weapons demonstration on October 9, 2006, that the DPRK had effectively tested its weapons and proven their design in the May 1998 Chagai-I series of tests by Pakistan, so the DPRK tests — particularly the February 12, 2013, test, were to prove Iranian weapon design efficacy. However, given the commonality of the payload “nipple” on the Iranian and DPRK missiles, it seems likely that the nuclear weapon design tested would be the baseline system for both countries.

Related article: Why is Iran Going Nuclear?

North Korea on February 12, 2013, at 03.57hrs GMT detonated its third nuclear explosion, a miniaturized warhead, at an underground site at Punggye-ri. Even by February 14, 2013, there was no detectable aerial evidence of the test, so well protected was the test site. However, seismic data indicated — through two different methods — that the warhead yield was at least double that of the second nuclear test on May 25, 2009, and was either six to seven kiloton yield or 10 kiloton yield, and was from a warhead sufficiently small to fit into the nose compartment already in service on the DPRK’s Taepo-Dong 2 and Iran’s Shahab 3D intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Initial interpretations of the limited evidence available soon after the detonation indicated that the weapon was a normal nuclear warhead (uranium and plutonium), and not the next-stage weapon on which the DPRK had been working. That would be a boosted-fission weapon, just below the level of a thermonuclear warhead. The February 12, 2013, weapon was below the boosted fission level weapon. There was a large satcom terminal near the entrance to the test site (which was unusual), and it was believed that this was because the weapon was, indeed, a joint Iranian-DPRK weapon, and was, in fact, funded by Iran. Intelligence sources noted that there were significant numbers of Iranians present at the test site.

Significantly, there were two test sites being prepared; one, heavily camouflaged, and the one used for the February 12, 2013, test, indicating that a follow-on detonation was possible in the weeks following the third weapon test.

By. GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs East Asia and Northern Tier Staff


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