Stronger sanctions neededNorth Korea is resorting to nuclear threats again. It showed Stanford University’s nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker an alleged uranium enrichment facility on his visit last week. They told him they are operating 2,000 centrifuges, which are enough to produce more than 20 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons per year. The North reportedly said it is building an experimental 25-30 MW light-water reactor at Yongbyon, which will receive “low-enriched uranium” from the facility Professor Hecker saw.
But no one would believe North Korea’s explanation, as there is no need to construct a massive enrichment facility only to produce low-enriched uranium. The United States immediately sent Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth to South Korea, China and Japan to deal with the situation, and our government is also paying close attention to that.
North Korea’s latest move is evidence that it has deceived the international community for decades. The North flatly denied that it had been pushing projects to build plutonium-based nuclear bombs in the 1950s. During talks with the Clinton administration in 1994, it suddenly promised to suspend its nuclear program, yet it conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2008. As a result, Pyongyang is known to possess eight to 12 plutonium-based nuclear bombs.
In a U.S. emissary’s visit to Pyongyang, North Korea insisted that it did not have a uranium-enrichment program, even deporting the IAEA inspectors. In 2008, it imploded a defunct graphite reactor at Yongbyon, but the latest revelation proves again that the country had been pursuing a uranium enrichment program long before.
If North Korea possesses a large amount of weapons-grade uranium, it becomes very dangerous, as uranium bombs are easier to make and can be applied to artillery other than missiles.
Moreover, North Korea already announced that it succeeded in nuclear fusion, hinting at the possibility of moving on to develop hydrogen bombs.
Uranium enrichment is an irrefutable evidence that North Korea violated UN Security Council sanctions banning development of any form of nuclear weapons. Now the international society should prepare much tougher sanctions against the North in order not to allow it to play the bully again. China in particular must go beyond its lukewarm sanction against its ally and put much more pressure on it.