Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Do they or don't they have a HEU program?

“SEOUL, Feb 20, 2007 (AFP) - South Korea's intelligence chief was quoted as saying Tuesday that he believes North Korea has a secret uranium enrichment program, in addition to its plutonium-based nuclear weapons project. "We believe (the program) exists," Kim Man-Bok, the head of the National Intelligence Service, told a closed-door parliamentary committee, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting. Kim was answering a question on whether the North is operating a highly-enriched uranium (HEU) program, the lawmakers told Yonhap news agency on condition of anonymity.”

In 2002 the United States made the shocking announcement that North Korea was operating a clandestine highly-enriched uranium program with the obvious purpose of producing nuclear weapons. This was the final deal breaker for the 1994 Agreed Framework to dismantle Pyongyang's existing nuclear facilities.

The accuracy of that assessment has been called into question on several occasions. Last week as the parties to the six-nation talks were thrashing out a deal in Beijing -- that turned out remarkably similar to the Clinton-era Agreed Framework -- further authoritative reports began to emerge calling the U.S. claims regarding HEU into question. The full report can be found on: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N09302593.htm

Without wishing to sound like a predictable cynic, it is worth remembering that the 2002 claims regarding North Korea's HEU program were made by the same people who gave us the following:

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney August 26, 2002

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.
Colin Powell February 5, 2003

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
George Bush March 18, 2003

So does the North have a clandestine HEU weapon's program? The NIS's Kim Man-bok “believes” so.

What do you believe?

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