N. Korea ‘has enough ma­te­rial for 20 nukes this year’: Sci­en­tist

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

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

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