Friday, July 29, 2005

North Korea may NOT Have Nuclear Weapons At All

A Russian news agency added a new twist on Thursday to the tortuous history of North Korea's nuclear ambitions, quoting a diplomatic source as saying that Pyongyang as yet had no functioning atomic arsenal at all.
The report, seen in Beijing, appeared as China hosted six-party talks aimed at defusing an international crisis over the secretive North's nuclear ambitions. The standoff erupted in October 2002 when U.S. officials accused Pyongyang of pursuing a clandestine weapons programme, prompting it to expel U.N. nuclear inspectors. Last February 10, North Korea announced that it had nuclear weapons. It demanded Washington provide aid, security guarantees and diplomatic recognition in return for scrapping them. Interfax said the source, described as being close to the Beijing talks, said Pyongyang had advised its ally, China, after declaring its nuclear status in February, that it had developed a detonator to activate nuclear charges. After completing this work, North Korea announced that it had become another nuclear power, "because the production of all the components for nuclear weapons had become technically possible", the source said. Interfax said the source believed Pyongyang would not spend large sums of money on mass production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons as long as it had hopes of reaching a desirable outcome at the six-party talks. U.S. intelligence reports have speculated that North Korea had stockpiled enough plutonium to make at least two and possibly as many as nine bombs. The U.S. military commander in South Korea confessed that even he was unclear if Pyongyang's nuclear boast was true. "North Korea has self-proclaimed itself as a nuclear power and on several occasions said they had nuclear weapons," General Leon LaPorte said on Thursday. "North Korea is the only one that could precisely answer the question whether they have nuclear weapons."