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P`yang Admits to Running Uranium Enrichment Program

Posted June. 15, 2009 06:54,   


North Korea has admitted to running a uranium enrichment program after denying it for the past seven years.

By saying its nuclear weapons development is using enriched uranium as well as plutonium, Pyongyang has made it clear that its nuclear activities seek to produce nuclear weapons instead of serving as a bargaining chip for negotiations with the United States. As such, the North is expected to further intensify its offensive against the international community to consolidate its status as a nuclear power.

Condemning the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 on imposing sanctions on Pyongyang, the North Korean Foreign Ministry released a statement Saturday on three countermeasures.

“We now launch efforts to enrich uranium. Following the decision to build light-water reactors, the project to develop uranium enrichment technology has been successfully conducted and entered the testing phase to secure nuclear fuel,” the statement said.

The North’s uranium enrichment program in 2002 triggered the second North Korean nuclear crisis. When then Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly visited Pyongyang on Oct. 4, 2002 and raised suspicion over the program, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju effectively admitted to having it.

“We seek to develop even more powerful weapons than that,” Kang said at that time.

The U.S. government said the program violated the 1994 Agreed Framework between Pyongyang and Washington, and imposed sanctions on the North jointly with the international community.

North Korea had until now vehemently denied having a uranium enrichment program, playing a “hide and seek” game with the United States and the international community. Because of the denial, parties to the 2005 denuclearization statement had to be satisfied with a general agreement in which Pyongyang agreed to give up all nuclear weapons and all existing nuclear development plans.

When verification of the North’s nuclear program was questioned last year, the North said in an undisclosed memorandum of understanding, “We do not deny the accusation that we operate a uranium enrichment program.” The North came clean Saturday apparently because it believes it no longer needs to hide the program given the declaration of its nuclear ambition.

In Saturday’s statement, Pyongyang said, “We will turn the remaining volume of newly enriched plutonium into weapons. One third of spent fuel rods have been reprocessed.”

“If the U.S. and its followers seek to sanction us, we will deem such moves as an act of war,” it added, threatening military action if neighboring countries employ sanctions, including inspection of its vessels, in line with the new U.N. Security Council resolution.

kyle@donga.com spear@donga.com