U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly has told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that North Korea's uranium enrichment program is only months behind their plutonium program.
But Kelly said: "The element of speed doesn't only apply to the plutonium" program, which officials judge could produce bomb-grade plutonium six months after the North restarts a reprocessing facility it is now preparing to revive.
"The enriched uranium issue, which some have assumed is somewhere off in the fog of the distant future, is not," Kelly said. "It is only probably a matter of months, not years, behind the plutonium" program, he added.
Keep in mind that it is easier to construct a nuclear bomb from uranium than it is from plutonium. Not coincidentally, Iran's nuclear weapons program is relying on the construction of thousands of uranium enrichment devices.
This mention by Henry Sokolski indicates that it is likely that North Korea and Iran are cooperating in their uranium enrichment programs.
Fear. Pyongyang may make more nuclear weapons. It may export its nuclear capabilities (North Koreans recently were sighted at Iran's uranium-enrichment plants). It may fire nuclear-capable rockets over its neighbors, or devise new ways to provoke the U.S.
The North Korean uranium enrichment program is not a response to the harder line that the Bush Administration has taken toward North Korea. US intelligence found indications of an active North Korean uranium enrichment program during the Clinton Administration.
In 1999, U.S. intelligence agencies detected efforts by a North Korean trading company to purchase enrichment technology from a Japanese manufacturer.
North Korea has been working covertly to develop an enrichment capability for nuclear weapons for at least five years and has used technology obtained from Pakistan and other nations, according to U.S. officials.
The United States received evidence of uranium enrichment efforts in North Korea as early as two years ago, but only recently decided to confront Pyongyang there about it, sources in the US and Asia say.
At first the evidence was faint and circumstantial. But it accumulated to the point that by August this year US officials felt the case was compelling and was grounds for cutting off talks aimed at improving relations with the isolated state.
On October 4, 2002 James Kelly confronted the North Koreans in a meeting in Pyongyang with the US evidence for the uranium enrichment program and the North Koreans admitted to it.
There are about a half dozen suspected uranium enrichment sites. But keep in mind that media reports cite intelligence sources which claim there are doubts about whether all the uranium enrichment sites are known to US intelligence. This is important because it is not possible to destroy a facility with an air strike if we do not know where that facility is located.
The Monterrey Institute's Center for Nonproliferation Studies has more maps and information sources about North Korean nuclear weapons development programs.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 March 15 10:02 AM Korea|