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US angered by N Korea nuclear claim

Posted by arnon_k On November - 22 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

US accuses Pyongyang of flouting international sanctions and seeking to destabilise region amid claims of a new reactor.
The United States says claims by North Korea of a new uranium enrichment plant and reports of sophisticated centrifuges have raised new concerns over its nuclear weapons programme.

The US special envoy for North Korea said on Monday that Pyongyang’s claim of a secret new uranium enrichment facility is provocative and disappointing but not a crisis or a surprise.

Stephen Bosworth’s comments, following a meeting with South Korea’s foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan, came as the United States and the North’s neighbours scrambled to come to terms with Pyongyang’s revelation to a visiting American nuclear scientist of what has been described as 2,000 recently completed centrifuges.

“This is obviously a disappointing announcement. It is also another in a series of provocative moves” by North Korea, Bosworth said.

“That being said, this is not a crisis. We are not surprised by this. We have been watching and analysing the (North’s) aspirations to produce enriched uranium for some time.”

A top US military official in interviews with the US media on Sunday said North Korea has consistently denied any enriching of uranium.

“This [report] validates a long-standing concern that we’ve had with respect to North Korea and its enrichment of uranium,” Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

“The assumption certainly is, that they continue to head in the direction of additional nuclear weapons. And they’re also known to proliferate this technology. So they’re a very dangerous country.

“All of this is consistent with belligerent behaviour and the kind of instability creation in a part of the world that is very dangerous,” Mullen added.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said on a visit to Bolivia that he believed the North has had an ongoing nuclear power programme “for a long time” and that “an enrichment plant like this, assuming that is what it is, obviously gives them the potential to create a number more”.

“North Korea has ignored a number of Security Council resolutions. They continually try to export weapons. So the notion they have developed this, is obviously a concern,” Gates said, adding that if the reactor is for civilian nuclear power “then they should welcome the IAEA”, the UN nuclear agency.

‘Military potential’

Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University revealed on Saturday that he had toured a modern, new uranium enrichment plant equipped with at least 1,000 centrifuges on November 12 at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Hecker in a report published on Saturday described the small, industrial-scale facility “stunning”, adding he was told it was already producing low-grade uranium, although there was no way to confirm if the plant was fully operational.

“It is possible that Pyonyang’s latest moves are directed primarily at eventually generating much-needed electricity,” he wrote. “Yet, the military potential of uranium enrichment technology is serious.”

“Instead of seeing a few small cascades of centrifuges, which I believed to exist in North Korea, we saw a modern, clean centrifuge plant of more than a thousand centrifuges all neatly aligned and plumbed below us.”

Hecker said his guides told him there were in fact 2,000 centrifuges which were already producing low-grade enriched uranium to help fuel a nuclear power reactor, and insisted it was for a civilian nuclear electricity programme.

He added that North Korean scientists told him that construction work on the facility, dubbed the “Uranium Enrichment Workshop”, started in April 2009 – the same month that Pyongyang withdrew from the six-party talks – and was completed just a few days ago.

North Korea quit the aid-for-disarmament talks in April 2009 and staged its second atomic weapons test a month later. The talks group the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

In recent months Pyongyang has expressed some willingness to return to the six-party talks.

Some US officials suggest that Pyongyang may have decided to show off its new facilities hoping to win US concessions if the talks resume.

Sunshine Policy failed to change North Korea: report

Posted by arnon_k On November - 18 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

(Reuters) – South Korea’s peaceful “Sunshine Policy” toward North Korea failed, a government report has found, saying there have been no positive changes to Pyongyang’s behavior despite a decade of mass aid and encouragement.

Aid shipped to the North during the administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun from 1998-2008 also failed to make a difference to the lives of destitute North Koreans, said the Unification Ministry white paper, seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The policy review by current President Lee Myung-bak’s government pointed to North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear arms and the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in March that killed 46 sailors as key examples of Pyongyang’s deceptive nature.

“The attack on the Cheonan proves that despite the qualitative growth in inter-Korea ties, North Korea has not changed,” the report said.

“There are no positive changes to North Korea’s position that correspond to the support and cooperation offered by us.”

Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel peace prize in 2000 for his Sunshine Policy of engaging the North and initiating dialogue between the rival Koreas, which remain technically at war after signing only a truce to end their 1950-53 conflict.

Kim travelled to Pyongyang in June 2000 in the first of only two meetings between the two Koreas’ leaders since the war, paving the way for warmer political ties and increasing commercial exchange.

Upon winning office in 2008, President Lee cut off aid and refused to give in to Pyongyang’s demand for concessions, saying the North must first give up its nuclear programmes in return for economic aid and help to build its economy.

Report: N. Korean defectors reach 20,000 and counting

Posted by arnon_k On November - 15 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — The number of North Koreans who have defected to South Korea has passed 20,000, the Yonhap news agency said Monday.

A 41-year-old woman identified only by the last name Kim arrived in South Korea on Thursday, becoming the 20,000th defector, Yonhap said, citing South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

The woman fled with her sons, ages 12 and 17, because of economic hardships in the North, Yonhap said.

The family arrived in South Korea via China, but no further details were available, the agency said.

An average of 200 North Koreans arrive in the South monthly, according to the Unification Ministry.

North Koreans also escape to neighboring China, but their numbers are unknown, because they go underground. Beijing sends North Korean defectors back to the hermetic North, where they face punishment.

Many North Koreans also are caught while trying to escape their impoverished country.

Millions of families were separated by the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with a ceasefire, but without a formal peace treaty.

South Korea turned itself into an economic tiger in the decades after the war. It overtook the communist North, which was industrially superior at one point.

North Koreans have gone hungry as their leaders have poured money into the country’s nuclear arms and missile programs, analysts say. The arms buildup has prompted harsh economic sanctions from the international community.

Weather-driven food shortages have compounded the hardships faced by North Koreans.

UN says North Korea giving nuclear equipment to Burma

Posted by arnon_k On November - 13 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

UNITED NATIONS: North Korea is supplying banned nuclear and ballistic equipment to Burma, Iran and Syria using “surreptitious” means to avoid international sanctions, according to a UN report released on Saturday morning.

China had blocked publication of the report which has been ready for six months, diplomats said.

North Korea is involved with “the surreptitious transfer of nuclear-related and ballistic missile-related equipment, know-how and technology” to countries including Iran, Syria and Burma, said the report.

A UN sanctions committee panel of experts called for heightened vigilance to stop the nuclear trade and for more detailed investigation into the sophisticated means used by North Korea to circumvent sanctions.

North Korea, known officially as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, “employs a broad range of techniques to mask its transactions, including the use of overseas entities, shell companies, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers and barter arrangements,” said the investigators.

Since the last sanctions were imposed in June 2009, four “non-compliance cases involving arms exports” had come to light, the report said.

It did not give details but said North Korea used “masking techniques” including mislabelling containers, falsifying ships’ manifests and destination details “and use of multiple layers of intermediaries, shell companies, and financial institutions.”

The North is increasingly using foreign-owned ships and modern air freight jets which can now easily get from North Korea’s main airports to the Middle East without refuelling and so avoid checks.

The experts said the Security Council should consider ordering North Korea to declare all air cargos before countries give overflight clearance.

The experts “expressed concern that certain countries, such as the Syrian Arab Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Burma, continue to be associated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in regard to proscribed activities and believes that special attention should be taken by all member states to inhibit such activities.

North Korea staged one nuclear test in 2006 and claims it set off another nuclear device in 2009, when the last sanctions were imposed. The UN Security Council has banned trade in nuclear and ballistic material.

The UN has named eight entities and five individuals for asset freezes and travel bans. The report said the number involved was much higher and called on countries to name other banks and other entities that should be added to the list.

North Korea had been involved in nuclear talks with China, the United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea. But the last talks were in late 2008 and the isolated North pulled out of the negotiations the following year.

International Atomic Energy Agency director Yukiya Amano said this week that the standoff with North Korea was now “very bad”.

The UN report said there were no signs that North Korea “is ready to move forward on denuclearisation or to step back from its other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile development programmes.”

The North “has continued to engage in activities proscribed by the relevant Security Council resolutions and has continued to boycott the six-party talks. It continues to market and export its nuclear and ballistic technology to certain other states.

China has been the North’s main ally on the international stage and it had blocked the report since it was prepared in May, diplomats said.