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North Korea details nuclear programme

Seoul, November 30, 2010

Secretive North Korea detailed  for the first time its expanded nuclear programme on Tuesday,  saying it had thousands of working centrifuges, as pressure  built on China to rein in its ally amid tensions on the  peninsula.   

Nuclear-armed Pyongyang's revelations about its uranium  enrichment, which gives it a second route to make a nuclear  bomb, came a week after it fired an artillery barrage at a South Korean island, killing four people including two civilians.   

Experts have voiced surprise at the sophistication of a  uranium enrichment plant and light-water reactor at the  North's main nuclear complex, which were shown to a US
scientist earlier this month.   

"Currently construction of a light-water reactor is in  progress actively and a modern uranium enrichment plant  equipped with several thousands of centrifuges, to secure the  supply of fuels, is operating," the Rodong Sinmun newspaper  reported.         

"Nuclear energy development projects will become more  active for peaceful purpose in the future," added the paper,  according the state news agency KCNA.          

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests to date and is  believed to have enough fissile material from its  plutonium-based programme to make between six and 12 bombs.   

It is impossible to verify the North's uranium enrichment  programme, which it first announced last year. International  inspectors were expelled from the country last year, but  Washington has said since 2002 that it suspected Pyongyang had  such a programme.

By staging provocations and flexing its nuclear muscle,  analysts say the isolated North is seeking to increase its  leverage as it pushes for a resumption of talks with regional  powers, which it walked out of two years ago, in return for aid.     

Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Kookmin  University, said Pyongyang was simply following its typical  pattern of behaviour.   

"For the last two years, both Washington and Seoul have  tried to ignore them, so now they use both artillery and  centrifuges to say: 'we are here, we are dangerous, and we  cannot be ignored. We can make a lot of trouble, but also we  behave reasonably if rewarded generously enough'," Lankov  wrote on the East Asia Forum website.   

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday the North's  nuclear programme, last week's attack on Yeonpyeong island and  a Chinese proposal for emergency talks would be raised at  meeting of foreign ministers in Washington in early December.         

South Korea, Japan and the United States, three of the six  countries involved in the on-off disarmament talks, will  attend the meeting.         

Talks host China has proposed a summit meeting of the six  parties that have been trying to rein in North Korea's nuclear  programme. Russia and North Korea are also part of that group.

The United States wants China to use its leverage to  restrain its ally North Korea, which fired shells at  Yeonpyeong island in the first attack on civilians on South  Korean soil since the end of the Korean war in 1953.         

"We're certainly in close consultations with China ... and  obviously we look to China to play a responsible leadership  role in working to maintain peace and security in that  region,"  US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan  Rice said.   

New Wikileaks revelations, purporting to be from US State Department cables and published by several Western  papers, raised questions about the future of the relationship  between China and North Korea which has in the past been  described as being as close as "lips and teeth".   -Reuters




Tags: China | North Korea | Nuclear | centrifuges |

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