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Ex-North Korean Leader Authorized Mass Assembly of HEU Warheads: Report

The late North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il had reportedly authorized the large-scale production of uranium-based nuclear weapons, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Monday (see GSN, June 26).

Relying on a private February document from the ruling North Korean Workers' Party, the Mainichi Shimbun and the Tokyo Shimbun both reported that Kim had directed regime officials to "mass-produce nuclear bombs" and that the uranium enrichment facility at the Yongbyon complex was not intended for nonmilitary activities.

Kim Jong Il died abruptly in December; he has been replaced by his son, Kim Jong Un. The timing of the elder Kim's remarks in the Workers' Party document is not clear from the Japanese newspaper reports.

Pyongyang officially maintains that its Yongbyon uranium plant is producing low-enriched uranium for use in a future atomic energy reactor. Uranium requires an enrichment level of around 90 percent to fuel a warhead (Yonhap News Agency I, July 2).

Separately, China's defense chief during a recent meeting with former South Korean armed forces officers said his government is strongly against any new nuclear weapons testing by North Korea, Yonhap reported.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie "expressed strong opposition to additional provocations by North Korea," one of the attendees of the meeting told Yonhap. "Liang noted that Kim Jong Un is focused on economics, while his aides work on foreign policy. He also said Kim is likelier to listen to China's advice than (his grandfather) Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il" (Yonhap News Agency II, July 2).

Meanwhile, a newly released report by the U.N. Security Council panel of experts overseeing implementation of sanctions targeting North Korea found that the Stalinist regime "continues actively to defy the measures in the [Security Council sanctions] resolutions," Reuters reported.

Despite the continued sanctions violations by the North, there have been no new reported incidents of "violations involving transfer of nuclear, other (weapons of mass-destruction)-related or ballistic missile items," reads the 74-page document.

"Although the (sanctions) have not caused the D.P.R.K. to halt its banned activities, they appear to have slowed them and made illicit transactions significantly more difficult and expensive," the report states.

Highlighted instances of sanctions violations include a 2007 North Korean cargo of missile fuel and other ballistic missile-related products that was shipped through China and possibly intended for Syria. The sanctions committee said it was also probing whether Myanmar and North Korea had illegal dealings in the realm of conventional arms (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, June 29).

The U.N. sanctions experts said they were probing the possibility that the road-mobile missile launcher platforms viewed in April during a military parade in Pyongyang were acquired from China, Agence France-Presse reported.

The report also noted the likelihood that the giant missiles displayed on top of the launcher platforms were dummies. "Alongside the already known missiles -- commonly identified as KN-02, Hwasongs, Nodong and Musudan -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea paraded a new road mobile missile, called KN-08 by analysts, much larger than its other missiles," the news agency stated.

"Missile analysts express varying levels of doubts on the operational status of the Musudan and newest KN-08, neither of which has yet been flight-tested. Analysts debate whether the KN-08s on display may have been mock-ups," reads the report (Tim Witcher, Agence France-Presse/Google News, June 30).

NTI Analysis

  • Russia's Nuclear Rearmament: Policy Shift or Business as Usual?

    Dec. 18, 2013

    This paper provides an overview of the current and planned state of Russia's strategic triad. It also explores motivations for Russia's planned upgrades to its strategic nuclear arsenal, offers a forecast of the likelihood of success, and suggests some implications for the United States.

Country Profile

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North Korea

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