Wednesday, November 04, 2009
N. Korea Says It Has More Bomb-Grade Plutonium
New York Times By CHOE SANG-HUN SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea put further pressure on the United States to start bilateral talks by declaring on Tuesday that it had completed reprocessing its spent nuclear fuel for use in a bomb. In early September, North Korea had told the United Nations Security Council that it was in the “final phase” of reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods unloaded from its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, and was “weaponizing” plutonium extracted from the rods. If reprocessed with chemicals, the rods could yield enough plutonium for at least one nuclear bomb, according to officials and nuclear experts in Seoul and Washington. Using the same procedure at Yongbyon, North Korea was believed to have already accumulated enough plutonium for six to eight bombs. On Monday, the North’s official news agency, K.C.N.A., said that the country completed reprocessing the 8,000 rods two months ago and had made “significant achievements” in turning the plutonium into an atomic bomb. “We have no option but to strengthen our self-defense nuclear deterrent in the face of increasing nuclear threats and military provocations from hostile forces,” the news agency said. North Korea conducted underground nuclear tests in October 2006 and in May. In April, it also test-fired a long-range rocket. If fully developed, the rocket, known as a Taepodong-2, is feared to have the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead as far as North America. Those moves resulted in new United Nations sanctions. Now, North Korea is trying to draw the United States back to the negotiating table, where its threats to reactivate its Yongbyon nuclear complex and acquire more bomb material serve as its strongest negotiating tool to obtain humanitarian aid, diplomatic recognition and other rewards. On Monday, North Korea pressed the United States for a decision about starting bilateral talks, warning that it was ready to proceed with its nuclear weapons program. North Korea has also said it was also enriching uranium. Highly-enriched uranium would give it another route to build nuclear bombs.