South Korea: North Able to Conduct Nuclear Test Any Time

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 16, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

North Korea has the ca­pa­city to carry out a fourth nuc­le­ar weapons test whenev­er it chooses to do so, South Korea’s seni­or ne­go­ti­at­or for stalled de­nuc­lear­iz­a­tion ne­go­ti­ations with Py­ongy­ang said on Tues­day.

Nuc­le­ar en­voy Cho Tae-yong told an audi­ence in Seoul “the as­sess­ment of North Korea’s nuc­le­ar cap­ab­il­it­ies is very grave, and we see it has the abil­ity to carry out an­oth­er round of nuc­le­ar tests whenev­er it wants in tech­no­lo­gic­al terms,” the Yon­hap News Agency re­por­ted.

Py­ongy­ang car­ried out its third and most-power­ful test to date in Feb­ru­ary. Ex­perts be­lieve at least one more un­der­ground ex­plo­sion is ne­ces­sary for the North to fig­ure out how to mini­atur­ize nuc­le­ar weapons for load­ing onto mis­siles.

“There are signs that the five-mega­watt graph­ite mod­er­ated re­act­or has been in op­er­a­tion re­cently, the North is ex­pand­ing nuc­le­ar en­rich­ment fa­cil­it­ies, and con­struc­tion is un­der­way for a small-scale light-wa­ter re­act­or,” Cho said in tick­ing off the vari­ous areas where Py­ongy­ang is ad­van­cing its abil­ity to pro­duce fis­sile ma­ter­i­al for war­heads.

The head of the U.N. nuc­le­ar watch­dog agency in an in­ter­view with Yon­hap said an­oth­er nuc­le­ar test by the North “or threat of an­oth­er test, is very dis­turb­ing.”

In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency Dir­ect­or Gen­er­al Yukiya Amano said: “We are al­ways pre­pared to go back to North Korea when re­ques­ted. But in or­der that the IAEA goes back to the North, a polit­ic­al agree­ment is es­sen­tial.”

Py­ongy­ang has said it is will­ing to re­turn to re­gion­al aid-for-de­nuc­lear­iz­a­tion ne­go­ti­ations but only on an un­con­di­tion­al basis. It has also tried to get its erstwhile ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ner to ta­citly re­cog­nize it as a nuc­le­ar-armed na­tion.

“In the past, the North con­sidered the pos­sib­il­ity of giv­ing up nuc­le­ar weapons in ex­change for as­sist­ance,” Chinese Cent­ral Party School ana­lyst Zhang Li­an­gui said in an in­ter­view with the Glob­al Times news­pa­per. “But now it wants to turn back to the ne­go­ti­ation table as a nuc­le­ar state and act as a su­per­visor of oth­er nuc­le­ar states, im­ply­ing that if it were to give up nuc­le­ar weapons, it would want oth­ers to do the same first.”

Zhang said oth­er par­ti­cipants in the moribund six-na­tion ne­go­ti­ations — China, Ja­pan, South Korea, Rus­sia and the United States — “should also break the North’s il­lu­sion that one day they will ad­mit its status as a nuc­le­ar state,” Yon­hap re­por­ted.

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