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Asia-pacific

Pyongyang claims uranium enrichment in final phase

©

Video by Nathalie TOURRET

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-04

North Korea says it has reached the final phase of uranium enrichment to build nuclear weapons and is also reprocessing spent fuel rods for a similar purpose.


AFP - North Korea said Friday it has entered the final phase of uranium enrichment to make nuclear weapons and is also building more atomic bombs from spent reactor fuel rods.
  
"Experimental uranium enrichment has successfully been conducted to enter into completion phase," the communist state's official Korean Central News Agency said.
  
"Reprocessing of spent fuel rods is at its final phase and extracted plutonium is being weaponised," the agency quoted its permanent representative to the United Nations as saying.
  
"We are prepared for both dialogue and sanctions," the representative was quoted as saying in a letter Thursday to the president of the UN Security Council.
  
The North for years denied it was operating a secret enriched uranium bomb-making programme in addition to its admitted plutonium-based operation.
  
But a day after the UN imposed tougher sanctions in June following its May 25 nuclear test, the North vowed to start an enriched uranium programme and to extract plutonium from the fuel rods at its Yongbyon reactor.
  
The North's UN representative said he was responding to a letter from the world body's sanctions committee "requesting a clarification."
  
No details were given. UN diplomats said last month that the United Arab Emirates had seized a ship carrying North Korean weapons to Iran and had informed the sanctions committee.
  
The North in its letter said it would never be bound by Resolution 1874 passed June 12, which imposed the tighter sanctions and authorised UN members to search ships suspected of carrying banned weapons.
  
"We do not feel, therefore, any need to respond to the request made by the UNSC 'committee'," it said, terming the resolution unfair.
  
The North said that if some Security Council members continue to put sanctions before dialogue, it would be forced "to take yet stronger self-defensive countermeasures" -- an apparent reference to a third nuclear test or a new long-range missile launch.
  
Pyongyang quit six-nation nuclear disarmament talks after the UN censured its April 5 rocket launch, and vowed to restart its bomb-making programme based on plutonium.
  
It staged its second nuclear test the following month.
  
As the United States presses for tough enforcement of Resolution 1874, the North has begun making a series of conciliatory gestures.
  
In August it freed two US journalists and five South Koreans, eased border crossings with the South, sent representatives to talks in Seoul and expressed willingness for direct discussions with Washington to end the nuclear standoff.
  
The North said Friday it had never objected to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula but the six-way talks had been used to "violate outrageously" its sovereignty.
  
"The denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is closely related with the US nuclear policy toward the DPRK (North Korea)," it added.
  
The United States says bilateral talks must be held in the six-party context. Its envoy on North Korea Stephen Bosworth is visiting the region for talks aimed at restarting the six-party process.
  
In a relatively mildly-worded statement, the North blamed its second nuclear test on the UN's "high-handed" criticism of its April 5 rocket launch.
  
It says the launch put a peaceful satellite into space, while the United States and others saw a disguised long-range missile test.
  
The North complained that the UN had failed to censure South Korea for its rocket launch last month, which involved an unsuccessful satellite launch.

Date created : 2009-09-04

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