N. Korea "making atomic bombs"
North Korea said Thursday that it has completed reprocessing its 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods and is using plutonium extracted from them to make nuclear weapons.
THE CLAIM CAME as some U.S. intelligence analysts are becoming increasingly concerned that the communist regime may have three, four or even six nuclear weapons instead of the one or two the CIA now estimates.
New atomic bombs would drastically increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula and give Pyongyang more authority at nuclear arms-control talks with the United States and others. They also could mean that the Stalinist regime might part with one bomb, either in a test or by selling it — despite Washington’s repeated warnings that any move that escalates tension would further isolate the country.
“The (North) successfully finished the reprocessing of some 8,000 spent fuel rods,” a spokesman of Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the North’s official news agency KCNA.
Accusing the United States of taking a “hostile policy” toward the North, the statement said North Korea “made a switchover in the use of plutonium churned out by reprocessing spent fuel rods in the direction (of) increasing its nuclear deterrent force.”
North Korea refers to its nuclear weapons program as its “nuclear deterrent force.”
North Korea also said it will reprocess more spent fuel rods to be produced from the small reactor in its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.
North Korea had said it was restarting its frozen 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon after it kicked out U.N. nuclear inspectors and quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in January.
Earlier this week, North Korea claimed that it was taking “practical measures” to boost its nuclear weapons program as a “deterrent” against what it calls a U.S. plan to invade.
The United States and its allies are trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear programs. North Korea says it will do so only if the United States signs a nonaggression treaty, provides economic aid and opens diplomatic ties.
The nuclear dispute flared last October when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted running a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of international agreements.
The United States and its allies suspended oil shipments to the North. North Korea in turn expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors, withdrew from the global nuclear arms-control treaty and said it would reactivate its main nuclear complex, frozen since 1994.
The United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia met in Beijing in August to defuse the crisis. The meeting ended without agreement on when to hold the next round as Washington and Pyongyang differed widely over how to resolve the dispute.
China, North Korea’s last remaining major ally, has been working to restart the talks.