Don Oberdorfer

Stories by Don Oberdorfer

  • Oberdorfer: How the White House Learned to Live With Kim Jong Il

    At 10:36 a.m. last Oct. 9, the first nuclear blast ever to shake the Korean peninsula created an artificial earthquake near P'unggye in the remote northeastern corner of North Korea. As nuclear detonations go, it was smaller than expected—less than 1 kiloton, the equivalent of 1,000 tons (2 million pounds) of TNT. However, that would be enough, according to U.S. expert Siegfried Hecker, former chief of the U.S. nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos, to kill instantly many thousands of people if it exploded in a major city.North Korea hailed the blast as a historic event that had been conducted entirely with "indigenous wisdom and technology." Following an unexplained delay of 11 days, it began holding mass celebrations of the country's nuclear status. Signs were erected on Pyongyang street corners declaring LET US MAKE SHINE FOREVER OUR BECOMING A NUCLEAR POWER, A HISTORIC INCIDENT IN THE 5,000 YEARS OF OUR PEOPLE'S HISTORY.The widespread belief, which I shared at the time, was that...