Mushroom cloud over N. Korea sparks nuclear discussions
September 24, 2004
Filed under Archives
On Sept. 9, 2004, U.S. satellites detected a mushroom cloud in the Yanggang province of North Korea, near the Chinese border. U.S. and South Korean officials have said that there is no evidence that the cloud is linked to the Communist nation’s nuclear program, which has long been a source of concern for the world community.
North Korean officials said the cloud was dust from the demolition of a mountain as part of a hydroelectric project. CNN reported that U.K. Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell visited the site; afterwards he said it was “fairly clear” that there was no evidence of a nuclear explosion
The International Herald Tribune reported that the North Korean government also flew diplomats from the embassies of Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and India and Mongolia to the site.
The South Korean government has been in an uproar, claiming that the diplomats were actually taken to a different site, far away from where satellites detected the mushroom cloud.
The government was especially suspicious that the blast was nuclear because its coincided with the 56th anniversary of the founding of North Korea.
However, South Korea’s Deputy Unification Minister, Lee Bong Jo, said that his government now recognizes the blast’s origin was not nuclear.
“The incident and the fears it has provoked around the world are another illustration of the enormous tension between the regime and the international community,” said James Robbins, diplomatic correspondent for the BBC.
The incident thrust North Korea’s nuclear program into the forefront of world politics once again.
“It is self-evident that the resumption of the talks can no longer be discussed unless the U.S. drops its hostile policy based on double standards toward the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] and that the latter can never dismantle its nuclear deterrent force,” reported the official North Korean news agency KCNA.
The comment about “double standards” referred to unsanctioned nuclear experiments performed by South Korea in 1992 and 2000.
South Korea and the United States, along with China, Japan, and Russia, have been pursuing talks with North Korea to persuade the nation to dismantle its nuclear arms program.
George Guo, Guilford professor of political science, said the incident is “very complicated,” and illustrates the tenuous trust between the United States and North Korea.
“The U.S. must rely on the international community,” Guo said in regard to how the United States ought to diffuse the tension in the area. “Bush has very little leverage; it would be very hard for him to gather support to send troops to North Korea.”
The Boston Herald reported that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry issued a statement that the very idea North Korea could have been testing a nuclear weapon represented a national security failure by President George W. Bush.
“North Korea’s nuclear program is well ahead of what Saddam Hussein was even suspected of doing – yet the president took his eye off the ball, wrongly ignoring this growing danger,” Kerry said.