Now North Korea boasts advances in N. programme
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
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