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CIA: “North Korea’s Nuclear Capability Has Increased from Three Years Ago”

CIA: “North Korea’s Nuclear Capability Has Increased from Three Years Ago”

Posted February. 17, 2005 22:57,   


CIA Director Porter Goss attended the Senate’s Intelligence Committee meeting on February 16, but did not specifically reveal North Korea’s nuclear capability that the intelligence agency grasped as he was conscious of TV cameras.

He was reluctant to answer openly, saying, “Each intelligence agency has slightly different estimates. I will state [North Korea’s nuclear capability that the CIA estimated] separately at a covert place and time.”

Yet, he said, “I will make clear that (North Korea’s) nuclear capability increased compared with the CIA’s estimate that was made in early 2002.” At the Senate’s Intelligence Committee meeting held in January 2002, right after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA estimated: “North Korea possesses enough plutonium for at least one and maybe two [nuclear weapons].”

On this basis, the Korean government has been expressing its official view that North Korea might possess 10 to 14 kilograms of plutonium tantamount to one or two nuclear bombs. In addition, the National Intelligence Service estimated at the National Assembly on February 15 that “North Korea might have developed one or two conventional nuclear weapons, but it has not secured the technology to make them small enough to be loaded onto and launched via missiles.

Director Goss’s remark on North Korea’s improved nuclear capability seems natural.

In January 2002, North Korea was inspected by the IAEA. It is also the time before the U.S. became certain that North Korea’s highly enriched uranium (HEU) programs, which were developed secretly, existed. In early 2003, when the second North Korean nuclear crisis hit, however, Pyongyang resumed extracting plutonium and has been increasing its stock of nuclear materials.

At a hearing on that day, Director Goss called North Korean diplomacy “bluster diplomacy” and estimated, “Pyongyang has been very effectively using the method of menacing with something horrible and earning something specific.”

“North Korea does not care about how absurd it will look on the international stage to ensure the regime’s survival – its top objective,” he added subsequently.

In addition, mentioning North Korea and Iran, Director Goss stated, “When they observe the pride that is generated in some countries who acquired world prestige through the possession of nuclear weapons or the effect nuclear possession has had on such nations’ nationalism and leadership, aspirants of nuclear weapon development have come to consider nuclear weapons as the Holy Grail.”

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com