A North Korean-origin ship's cargo containing several high-quality rods that can be used for uranium enrichment has been intercepted by Japanese authorities, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday.
The five rods were found on board a Singapore-flagged vessel when it docked at the Tokyo seaport last August. Testing over the last half-year has verified the rods are aluminum alloy, Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said.
"The aluminum alloy is extremely strong and can be used in centrifuges, that are products related to nuclear development," the chief Cabinet secretary noted.
While North Korea has recently threatened to carry out pre-emptive nuclear attacks on South Korea and the United States, a more pressing danger is Pyongyang's readiness to export atomic technology to other rogue countries, the Associated Press reported.
The North is strongly believed to have provided Syria with technology for building a nuclear reactor designed to produce fissile material. The United States also believes Pyongyang continues to have illegal weapons dealings with Syria and Iran.
Pyongyang's recent strides in testing nuclear devices and long-range rockets have likely emboldened it to further export its strategic capabilities, according to analysts
"There's a growing technical capability and confidence to sell weapons and technology abroad, without fear of reprisal, and that lack of fear comes from (their) growing nuclear capabilities," former U.S. State Department official Joel Wit said at a recent Seoul forum.
"The terrorist threat of an improvised nuclear device delivered anonymously and unconventionally by a boat or a truck across our long and unprotected borders is one against which we have no certain deterrent or defensive response," one-time U.S. nuclear negotiator to North Korea Robert Gallucci said in February. "For Americans, this threat is far greater than the unlikely threat that may someday be posed by North Korean nuclear weapons delivered by a ballistic missile."
U.S. long-range nuclear-capable bombers are taking part in bilateral U.S.-South Korea armed forces maneuvers, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday.
The inclusion of the B-52s in the yearly Foal Eagle exercise "highlights the extended deterrence and conventional capabilities" of the strategic aircraft, Defense Department spokesman George Little said to journalists.