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North Korea Has Weapons-Grade Plutonium

Posted December. 07, 2004 22:55,   


Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Monday that he was now certain that North Korea has reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods to secure enough plutonium to produce four to six nuclear weapons.

In his interview with the New York Times, El-Baradei synthesized several years of accumulated information by the IAEA and then explained that his assumption was highly probable considering that almost two years had passed since the North ejected the IAEA inspection team and began reprocessing 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods.

Unlike El-Baradei’s assumption, the Bush administration has officially said that the North has plutonium for one to two nuclear bombs.

El-Baradei’s comments would serve to press the U.S. to initiate more aggressive actions, pointed out Robert Einhorn, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a former senior State Department officer.

The New York Times analyzed that the chief’s assumption could be interpreted to mean that the North might have sold a few or used some for nuclear experiments, which indicates a totally different level of problems unlike when the North owns one or two nuclear bombs.

The IAEA chief said that though his assumption was not based on new intelligence, he was certain that the North had reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods and had already secured enough nuclear materials to produce weapons.

He also added that converting spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium was not a difficult process at all, and that even if they had any problems, enough time to solve has passed.

Kwon-Heui Hong konihong@donga.com