North Korea's test 'may never be confirmed'

11th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 11, 2006 (AFP) - North Korea's claim to have tested a nuclear weapon on Monday may never be confirmed because the blast was so weak, although if the device was indeed nuclear, the test was a flop, a French nuclear official said on Wednesday.

PARIS, Oct 11, 2006 (AFP) - North Korea's claim to have tested a nuclear weapon on Monday may never be confirmed because the blast was so weak, although if the device was indeed nuclear, the test was a flop, a French nuclear official said on Wednesday.

"There is a series of differentiations to be done" to sift out the blast from background noise among the seismic data recorded on Monday, said Xavier Clement, spokesman of France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).

"It is possible that this cannot be done, given the weakness of the signals compared to the background noise" of subterranean movement, he told AFP in a phone interview.

"If it turns out to have been a nuclear test, it's clear that the weakness of the energy release corresponds to an explosion that fell short of what could have been expected," he said.

Clement agreed with other estimates that put the explosion at less than one kilotonne equivalent of TNT.

The seismic waves "are virtually at the lowest threshold of detection" by the international networks of sensors deployed to monitor nuclear tests, he said.

Asked whether it would be possible to distinguish between a nuclear blast and conventional explosives, he said, "The probability that we can't is not at all negligible."

Earlier Wednesday, French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said that "whatever the case, if indeed it was a nuclear explosion, then it was a failed test."

"Given its weakness, it is hard to say if it was an explosion with a very large amount of conventional explosive or indeed a nuclear explosion."

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said that confirming North Korea's claim "may take some time."

"There is a remote possibility that we'll never be able to determine fully," he said.

A US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said "a test that didn't quite play out as expected would certainly be one of the hypotheses."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article