Now North Korea boasts ad­vances in N. pro­gramme

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

SEOUL: Se­cre­tive North Korea boasted ad­vances in its nu­clear pro­gram on Tues­day, mak­ing sure it held the world's at­ten­tion, say­ing it had thou­sands of work­ing cen­trifuges, as pres­sure built on China to rein in its ally.

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 U.S. sci­en­tist ear­lier this month. There has been no way to ver­ify the North's claims.

The North is also seen as a pro­lif­er­a­tion risk, ac­cused by the West of sup­ply­ing Syria, and pos­si­bly Iran, with nu­clear know-how.

"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. New rev­e­la­tions by whis­tle-blower Wik­ileaks, mean­while, sug­gested that some Chi­nese of­fi­cials did not view North Korea as a use­ful ally and would take no ac­tion if it col­lapsed.

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 a typ­i­cal pat­tern.

"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.

North Korea has con­ducted two nu­clear tests to date and is be­lieved to have enough fis­sile ma­te­rial from its plu­to­ni­um­based pro­gram to make be­tween six and 12 bombs. It is im­pos­si­ble to ver­ify the North's ura­nium en­rich­ment pro­gram, 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 pro­gram. -Reuters

CARA­CAS: Venezuela's Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez (2nd L) speaks dur­ing an emer­gency cabi­net meet­ing due to heavy rains in Cara­cas. Heavy rains in the past few days have caused floods and land­slides in the slums of Cara­cas forc­ing the evac­u­a­tion of hun­dreds of fam­i­lies, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal me­dia. -Reuters

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