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UN action spurs more Pyongyang nuclear threats

North admits to uranium program as new source of bomb raw material  PLAY AUDIO

June 15,2009
The UN Security Council votes unanimously to adopt a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea, Friday, at the United Nations headquarters. The resolution will impose new sanctions on the nation’s weapons exports and financial dealings, and allow inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas. [AP]
In response to the United Nations Security Council’s latest resolution against its nuclear test, North Korea on Saturday declared it would make even more nuclear weapons and acknowledged its uranium enrichment program for the first time.

North Korea also vowed to take military action against any attempt to further isolate the country.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Saturday condemning and rejecting UN Security Council Resolution 1874. The resolution was adopted earlier in the day, Korean time, to impose an extended arms embargo and tough financial sanctions on North Korea for its May 25 nuclear test.

The North charged the resolution was adopted “at the instigation of the U.S.” and said it will “decisively counter ‘sanctions’ with retaliation and ‘confrontation’ with all-out confrontation.”

Japan’s Mainichi Shinbun yesterday published this photo of North Korea’s crown prince Kim Jong-un at age 16. [YONHAP]
Developing uranium enrichment technology will be one countermeasure.

“The process of uranium enrichment will be commenced,” the statement read. “Pursuant to the decision to build its own light-water reactor, enough success has been made in developing uranium enrichment technology to provide nuclear fuel to allow the experimental procedure.”

In April, North Korea hinted at the development of the uranium enrichment technology by announcing it was considering building its own light-water reactor.

U.S. intelligence officials have long suspected the existence of a secret North Korean program to enrich uranium. Such a program can be difficult for satellites to detect because it is conducted underground.

While it develops the uranium enrichment program, North Korea said it will make weapons from its existing storage of extracted plutonium.

“The whole amount of the newly extracted plutonium will be weaponized,” the statement read. “More than one-third of the spent fuel rods has been reprocessed to date.”

In April, following the release of a statement by the president of the UN Security Council condemning the April 5 North Korean rocket launch, Pyongyang said it had begun reprocessing spent fuel rods, a step necessary to develop weapons-grade plutonium. North Korea had partially disabled its plutonium-producing plants under an agreement reached during the six-party denuclearization talks in 2007 but has since reactivated them and has deported inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In addition, the North on Saturday threatened “a decisive military response” to “an attempted blockade of any kind by the U.S. and its followers.”

Experts estimate North Korea possesses enough plutonium for about six atomic bombs, and uranium can be another source of such weapons. U.S. intelligence officials have said North Korea purchased about 150 tons of high-impact aluminum tubes, enough to build 2,600 P1 centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium. And Pakistan has admitted to supplying North Korea with about 20 P1 centrifuges from 1998 to 2001.

Pakistan has also reportedly given the North a design blueprint for P2 centrifuges. The P2 centrifuge produces more enriched uranium than the P1 because it is stronger and spins faster. P2 centrifuges use a maraging steel rotor, compared to P1’s aluminum rotor.

About 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of highly enriched uranium are necessary to make an atomic bomb. If more than 2,500 P1 centrifuges, or 1,000 P2 centrifuges, rotate for one year, they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for one atomic weapon.

North Korea insisted it never chose to go nuclear but was “compelled” to do so to deal with the U.S. hostile policy.

“It has become an absolutely impossible option for [North Korea] to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons,” the statement read. “It makes no difference to [the North] whether its nuclear status is recognized or not.”

The South Korean government on Saturday reacted with “grave concern and regret.”

“Measures in the North Korean statement present a direct challenge to the international community’s efforts toward the denuclearization of North Korea,” said Moon Tae-young, the South Korean Foreign Ministry
spokesman. “The South Korean government, together with the international community, will deal with the uranium enrichment program as sternly as with plutonium extraction.”

Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, also called North Korea’s actions “deeply regrettable.”

“We intend to do all we can to prevent continued proliferation by the North Koreans,” Clinton said.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China should “come to an agreement on the way forward” before engaging Pyongyang in denuclearization talks.

“The North Koreans have gained, or bought, a lot of time through the six-party-talks framework to pursue their own agenda. I think it’s important now, at this critical point in time, for us not to repeat any past mistakes,” Lee said during an interview conducted before North Korea’s statement on nuclear weapons. “Our ultimate objective is to try to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, but we must also ask ourselves: What do the North Koreans want in return for giving up their nuclear weapons program?” Lee continued. “I think this is the type of discussion that the five countries should be robustly engaging in.”

The North Korean rhetoric overshadowed the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1874 earlier Saturday, Korean time. In addition to a trade embargo on weapons and financial restrictions, the resolution calls for inspection of ships suspected of carrying banned arms and related materials. The resolution, however, doesn’t authorize the use of military force.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed these sanctions as “appropriate and balanced” reactions to North Korea’s nuclear test.

“Acting unanimously and agreeing on credible measures, the members of the Security Council have sent today a clear and strong message,” Ban said.

The resolution was also welcomed by key powers of the Security Council, including China, an ally of North Korea and a country previously reluctant to impose tough sanctions on Pyongyang.

According to the Chinese state Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “China supports that the UN Security Council reacts in an appropriate and balanced way, and has taken part in relevant negotiations with a responsible and constructive attitude.”

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the new resolution had “teeth that will bite,” but also warned of possible North Korean provocations. “Based on past experience and a pattern that North Korea has of reckless and dangerous actions,” Rice said, “it would not be a surprise if North Korea reacted to this very tough sanctions regime in a fashion that would be further provocation.”


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]











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