Don't Look Now, but Iran and North Korea Are Upping Their Nuclear Games

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There are two countries in this world that we'd rather not see tinker with nuclear energy: Iran and North Korea. And it just so happens one of those is now prepping for a nuclear test, while the other is bragging about how it's putting its program into overdrive.

Let's start in Iran. "Iran is poised for a major technological update of its uranium enrichment program, allowing it to vastly increase production of the material that can be used for both reactor fuel and nuclear warheads," diplomats told the AP on Thursday. According to sources at the International Atomic Energy Agency, officials in Iran are mounting 3,132 "new-generation centrifuges" which likely means they're done with research and now moving on to enrichment, which in the big picture, "will reduce the timeline for Iran being able to produce a weapon's worth of fissile material," an expert told the AP.

Essentially, if Iran isn't bluffing about its new centrifuges, then talk of them possessing a bomb isn't as far away as some think. This report comes just three days after Israeli intelligence officials said Iran was slowing down its nuclear program. Sheera Frankel reported:

Intelligence briefings given to McClatchy over the last two months have confirmed that various officials across Israel’s military and political echelons now think it’s unrealistic that Iran could develop a nuclear weapons arsenal before 2015. Others pushed the date back even further, to the winter of 2016.

Obviously that's a conflicting report and radically different than what Iranian officials are telling the AP and telling the IAEA. And keep in mind, that Israel isn't afraid of stoking fears about Iran's nuclear capabilities. (Remember Binyamin Netanyahu's "red line" from September?)

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Some 4,000 miles away there are reports that North Korea has issued martial law. We know this is North Korea and it might as well be martial law there all day every day. But this is serious, in that the martial law order appears to be a precursor to a new nuclear test, according to Korea's Joongang Daily.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued a secret order to “complete preparations for a nuclear weapons test between Tuesday and yesterday” and carry it out sometime soon ...

Kim also reportedly said, “The country will be under martial law starting from midnight Jan. 29 and all the frontline and central units should be ready for a war,” the source said

The upcoming weapons test would be the third in the country's history, and The Telegraph's Julian Ryall reports that analysts had predicted the test to happen on Kim Jong-il's birthday, February 16. Now, it appears that it could happen even sooner than that. It doesn't make anyone feel better that that the state-run Korean Central News Agency hasn't been quiet about who they intend to annihilate.

The servicepersons and civilians in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea are hardening their will to turn out in an all-out action against the United States, which recently cooked up an anti-DPRK "resolution" over its peaceful satellite launch.

An officer with the Korean People's Army chimed in with something you'd probably hear from a Mortal Kombat character: 

We, servicepersons, are now filled with the fixed will to annihilate at once the hostile forces infringing upon the sovereignty of the country. The powerful striking means of the Paektusan revolutionary army have already been in full readiness to shower fire of merciless punishment on the disgusting den of evils and show what a real war is like.

Happy Thursday to you, too. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.