N. Korea gives U.S. nu­clear doc­u­ments

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Ni­cholas Kralev

North Korea on May 8 gave the United Sates eight boxes of doc­u­ments from its nu­clear weapons pro­gram dat­ing back to 1990 — a move that U.S. of­fi­cials said clears the way for the North to be re­moved from the black­list of state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism.

More than 18,000 pages of records, whose pend­ing trans­fer was first re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Times two weeks ago, were given to Sung Kim, di­rec­tor of the State De­part­ment’s Korea desk, who vis­ited Py­ongyang for the sec­ond time in two weeks.

“He is go­ing to bring with him a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of doc­u­ments re­lated to North Korea’s plu­to­nium pro­gram,” State De­part­ment spokesman Sean McCor­mack told re­porters. “We’ll have an op­por­tu­nity over the com­ing days and weeks to as­sess the sig­nif­i­cance of th­ese doc­u­ments.”

The records are in­tended to show how much plu­to­nium North Korea has pro­duced. Wash­ing­ton, which es­ti­mates that amount to be be­tween 65 and 110 pounds, is seek­ing the dis­po­si­tion of the plu­to­nium, the most com­mon in­gre­di­ent of an atomic bomb.

An atomic bomb can be made with as lit­tle as 9 pounds of plu­to­nium, ac­cord­ing to the Web site Nu­cle­arTer­ror­ism.org, which is spon­sored by Har­vard Univer­sity’s Belfer Cen­ter for Science and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs.

The North con­ducted its first nu­clear test in Oc­to­ber 2006, but by most ac­counts it was not suc­cess­ful.

Mr. Kim, who made a ten­ta­tive deal on the doc­u­ments dur­ing his pre­vi­ous visit to Py­ongyang in late April, re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to re­turn to col­lect them on May 1, the day The Times story was pub­lished.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to make an as­sess­ment of whether or not this is the full ex­tent of what the North Kore­ans said that they were go­ing to turn over,” Mr. McCor­mack said. “At this point, I don’t have any rea- son to ques­tion that.”

Al­though it will take the United States some time to ver­ify all the records Mr. Kim is bring­ing, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has given Py­ongyang a green light to sub­mit an over­due dec­la­ra­tion of its past and present nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties, of­fi­cials said.

The of­fi­cials, who asked not to be named be­cause they were de­scrib­ing private con­ver­sa­tions, said the North could give the dec­la­ra­tion to China, the host of six-na­tion nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions, as soon as this week.

A meet­ing of the six coun­tries — the United States, China, Ja­pan, South Korea, Rus­sia and North Korea — is likely to be sched­uled around that time, the of­fi­cials said. It was not clear, how­ever, whether the dec­la­ra­tion will be sub­mit­ted be­fore or dur­ing that ses­sion.

“We will see, per­haps, North Korea pro­vid­ing a dec­la­ra­tion to China, who is a chair of the six­party talks, and [the plu­to­nium] doc­u­ments will play a role in that process,” Mr. McCor­mack said.

The de­lay in pro­vid­ing the North’s dec­la­ra­tion, which was due on Dec. 31 un­der a six-party deal reached last year, was caused by Py­ongyang’s re­fusal to in­clude in it two sen­si­tive as­pects of its nu­clear ef­forts: ura­nium-en­rich­ment and pro­lif­er­a­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has ac­cused North Korea of try­ing to de­velop a pro­gram to en­rich ura­nium, which also can be used to make bombs, based on cer­tain pur­chases the reclu­sive state made from Rus­sia and Pak­istan in the 1990s.

Last month, the ad­min­is­tra­tion told Congress that a Syr­ian plu­to­nium fa­cil­ity that was bombed by Is­rael in Septem­ber was built with North Korean help.

U.S. of­fi­cials now say that those two is­sues will be dealt with in a sep­a­rate doc­u­ment. They say the United States will write the doc­u­ment in­stead of the North Kore­ans, who will sim­ply “ac­knowl­edge” the U.S. con­cerns.

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