N. Korea ‘has enough material for 20 nukes this year’: Scientist
WASHINGTON: North Korea could have enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium by the end of 2016 to build up to 20 nuclear bombs, a leading US nuclear scientist says.
Siegfried Hecker, director from 1986-97 of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the top US government nuclear facility, offered the estimate of the Pyongyang regime’s fissile material in an article published this week by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
He said the latest North Korean nuclear detonation on Sept 9, the fifth known test in 10 years, “must be viewed with great concern, not for any specific capabilities it may have demonstrated, but as part of this enormous buildup of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal”.
The test, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, brought immediate condemnation and calls for further tightening of economic and political sanctions against the already severely isolated communist regime.
Australia was the latest to endorse tougher actions.
“We see North Korea’s provocative acts as not only a threat to the Korean peninsula but to our region and globally,” foreign minister Julie Bishop said on Wednesday in Canberra.
UN secretary-general Ban Kimoon said he had never seen more heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It is important for the security council to take urgent action to prevent further provocative actions by North Korea and to send a strong message to the country’s leaders, he said.
Hecker estimates that North Korea could have stockpiled 32kg to 54kg of plutonium, plus 300kg to 400kg of bomb-grade uranium, before the end of the year. – dpa