News / Asia

    North Korea Appears Capable of Making Uranium Nuclear Equipment

    A military truck carrying a missile parades during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, July 27, 2013.
    A military truck carrying a missile parades during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, July 27, 2013.
    Daniel Schearf
    A new assessment of North Korea’s nuclear program says Pyongyang appears capable of building sensitive nuclear equipment that could allow it to evade international trade sanctions and easily hide a nuclear weapons program.  South Korea's Defense Ministry has said it will never accept North Korea as a nuclear state. 

    U.S.-based researchers analyzed photos and documents from North Korea that they say show tools and skills necessary to make gas centrifuges.
     
    Preventing Pyongyang's access to gas centrifuges is a key aim of United Nations sanctions as they can be used to make highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.  
     
    Non-proliferation expert Joshua Pollack, one of the authors of the study, said if North Korea can make its own centrifuges, as evidence suggests, trade restrictions will have little effect.
     
    "If they're making the really scarce parts, the parts that are hard to substitute for, hard to make, and hard to find, if they're making those then really the current approach of export controls and sanctions and interdiction will not help," Pollack said.  "At least, it will not help as a means of denying them the technology.  It seems to be too late for that.  On the other hand, it may have other benefits including stopping them from exporting it."
     
    North Korea has already produced plutonium-based nuclear bombs and tested them three times, the latest in February.  The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security released a report in August showing North Korea doubled the size of its uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon.
     
    Satellite imagery of the Yongbyon Fuel Fabrication plant from July 28, 2013 showing the expansion of the gas centrifuge plant building.Satellite imagery of the Yongbyon Fuel Fabrication plant from July 28, 2013 showing the expansion of the gas centrifuge plant building.
    x
    Satellite imagery of the Yongbyon Fuel Fabrication plant from July 28, 2013 showing the expansion of the gas centrifuge plant building.
    Satellite imagery of the Yongbyon Fuel Fabrication plant from July 28, 2013 showing the expansion of the gas centrifuge plant building.
    Analysis of satellite images earlier this month by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins also indicated the plutonium facilities had restarted.
     
    This week it issued further analysis on images believed to show North Korea engaged in engine testing for a long-range missile.
     
    Unlike plutonium, uranium does not give off a high heat signature, making it more difficult to track.  
     
    Pollack said it would be a serious complication for efforts to denuclearize the North.
     
    "If we were ever to reach a denuclearization agreement with the North Koreans, it's not clear how we'll verify it.  If they're able to produce centrifuges and they're able to put them, essentially anywhere, with little assurance that we'll be able to find it, how can we be confident that they're holding to their end of the bargain?"
     
    South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday declined to comment on Pyongyang's production of nuclear equipment.
     
    Cho Tai-young, a ministry spokesman, said they cannot confirm issues related to intelligence.  In addition, he said, they are aware that there are various opinions on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and technologies.
     
    Pyongyang claims the uranium program is only for peaceful energy purposes.  Although centrifuges could be used to make low-enriched uranium for electricity production, on the nuclear issue, analysts note North Korea has not earned the world's trust.
     
    This Spring it issued almost daily threats of attacks on South Korea and the United States, including nuclear war.
     
    And although Pyongyang says it wants to negotiate an end to its nuclear programs, at the same time it has been seeking recognition as a nuclear state.  
     
    South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman, Kim Min-seok said the government does not recognize North Korea as a nuclear state because the international community does not.

    Kim said this is the most important position of the Seoul government.  He added that it supports the belief that North Korea’s nuclear threats are being realized because the possibility is high that North Korea can weaponize nuclear power and actually use it.  However, from a technological perspective, he says, there is no evidence to prove North Korea used nuclear weapons or is able to mount nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.
     
    The North's nuclear pursuits have led to tighter U.N. sanctions that are supported by its traditional ally, China.
     
    China's Commerce Ministry on Monday published a long list of technology and materials banned for export to North Korea because of potential dual-use as weapons or for nuclear development.
     
    Meanwhile, also on Tuesday South Korea turned down a $7.7 billion bid by aircraft maker Boeing for F-15 fighter jets.  
     
    Defense Ministry spokesman Kim cited the nuclear threat from North Korea, saying the jets were not advanced enough.
     

    Youmi Kim in VOA's Seoul bureau contributed to this report

    You May Like

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    Numerous national election surveys show former secretary of state defeating presumptive Republican nominee with tough talk to halt illegal immigration and temporarily block Muslims from entering country

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora