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       “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.”

Luke 21:19

Perilous Times

North Korea Newest Weapon: Nuke Torpedo?

      By Spencer Ackerman - Wired News
      December 9, 2010  |

Just when you thought it was safe to take a dip in the West Sea, a report from North Korean dissidents claims that Pyongyang has already developed sea-borne nuclear weapons.

If you read Korean, you can find their report here, but if not, Bill Gertz at the Washington Times has the gist. Citing a Pyongyang government official, the defectors claim that in March 2009, North Korean military units calledThunder and Lightning began technical nuclear torpedo and mine research to blunt the superiority of U.S. and South Korean naval weaponry. They claim that the nuclear mines are technologically at a stage of completion, and the plan [is] to finish [developing] nuclear torpedoes by 2012. North Korea is believed to have fewer than ten nuclear bombs.

Now the caveats. U.S. intelligence officials have yet to check out the claim, Gertz reports, and Gertz reporting can be rather alarmist about east-Asian threats. The North record at testing nuclear weapons is spotty at best. Defectors have been known to inflate the threat from their home regimes. According to the defectors, one of the reasons Pyongyang wants the deep-sea nukes is to deter the U.S. from interfering in a potential Korean war. But it hasn boasted about developing them  even as U.S. warships recently drilled with the South Koreans after the North artillery attack three weeks ago, and the top U.S. military officer just left Kim Jong-il backyard on a trip to bolster the anti-Nork coalition. Hard to see how the U.S. could be deterred by something it doesn know about.

Still, over at the U.S. Naval Institute blog, Raymond Pritchett observes that a recent WikiLeaked cable cited a Chinese diplomat claim that Pyongyang kept critical information about secret underwater nuclear facilities located on North Korea coastï hidden from Kim big Chinese patron. (Although that cable is from 2008, from 2008, seemingly before the supposed launch of the North nuke torpedo and mine program.)

These weapons are familiar to the U.S. Starting in the 1960s, its subs carried the Mark 45 and Mark 48 nuclear torpedoes, 19-foot-long weapons designed to take out Soviet nuclear subs with 11-kiloton yields. Moscow family of countermeasures, known as the Type 53-68 HWT, had 20-kiloton yields. Gertz notes that the Chinese navy has been intrigued by nuclear torpedoes lately, leading him to collect this awesome quote from defense wonk Richard Fisher: China strategy is simply to have us negotiate with North Korea and Iran until its nuclear weapons start to kill us.

OK then. It possible we may get some clarity on the alleged nuclear torpedo and mine programs. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a frequent diplomatic backchannel to the North Koreans, is headed to Pyongyang at the invitation of key people in the nuclear crowd over there, according to the Washington Post Presumably theyll want to talk about the North recent declaration of a new uranium-enrichment facility, but it the perfect opportunity to make additional nuclear boasts.