Why Some US Leaders Want a North Korea Nuke Test

May offer much-needed glimpse at Pyongyang's capabilities

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 31, 2013 10:57 AM CST

(Newser) – A North Korean nuclear test sounds 100% bad, right? Not according to some US intelligence officials, who the New York Times reports would like to see it happen. Their reasoning is simple: A test would offer a rare opportunity to assess Pyongyang's nuclear advancements. It's been years since the US has been afforded a clear view of the country's progress, and experts say officials may have misjudged the potency of the plutonium bombs tested in 2006 and 2009. A new test could reveal whether the country is now capable of building a uranium bomb or creating a warhead to fit on a long-range missile.

"We know a lot about their programs, but not the most important part: How far along are they? And we won’t know that until they test," says a George W. Bush administration official. The US is already poised to observe, with what the Times calls "sensitive sniffing devices" attached to reconnaissance planes. Also watching: Iran. "They want to see how it works, and they want to see how North Korea is treated by the rest of the world if they do another test," says an expert. Iran is giving its nuclear centrifuges a massive upgrade. (In other North Korea news, Kim Jong Un reportedly told the military to "be ready for a war.")

South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally against possible nuclear test by North Korea in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
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