Tuesday, June 27, 2006

N.Korea may have fuel for 13 nuclear weapons: study

Explain to me why we are concerned about Iran, when they are most likely 10 years away from the technology North Korea presently has?

During President George W. Bush's administration, North Korea has gone from having enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons to having enough for as many as 13, a study released on Monday said.

It concluded that the reclusive communist state, whose threat to test a long-range ballistic missile has spread concern in Washington and in Asia, could have more than 17 such weapons by the time Bush leaves office in early 2009.

The study, authored by former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright, was based on analysis of satellite imagery indicating activity at the five megawatt nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, media reports and statements by North Korean officials.

It said Pyongyang probably did not have enough plutonium stock for its own deterrence and so is unlikely to sell it.

But if production continued at current levels, North Korea's cash-strapped leaders may decide in a "few years" that they have enough for their own use and can market the excess.

"We conclude that North Korea is estimated to now have enough separated plutonium to develop a credible nuclear arsenal, on the order of 4 to 13 nuclear weapons and similar in size to South Africa's nuclear weapons arsenal in the late 1980s at the height of its effort," Albright and co-author Paul Brannan said.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), of which Albright is the president, issued the report.

Here is a link to the full report.


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