The Washington Post has reported that equipment turned over by the North Korean government to the United States has been found to be contaminated with enriched uranium:
U.S. scientists have discovered traces of enriched uranium on smelted aluminum tubing provided by North Korea, apparently contradicting Pyongyang’s denial that it had a clandestine nuclear program, according to U.S. and diplomatic sources.
The United States has long pointed to North Korea’s acquisition of thousands of aluminum tubes as evidence of such a program, saying the tubes could be used as the outer casing for centrifuges needed to spin hot uranium gas into the fuel for nuclear weapons. North Korea has denied that contention and, as part of a declaration on its nuclear programs due by the end of the year, recently provided the United States with a small sample to demonstrate that the tubes were used for conventional purposes.
The discovery of the uranium traces has been closely held by senior U.S. officials concerned that disclosure would expose intelligence methods and complicate the diplomatic process. North Korea has steadfastly refused to open up about its past practices, simply asserting that it is not engaged in inappropriate activities. However, the uranium finding will force U.S. negotiators to demand a detailed explanation from Pyongyang.
Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the director of national intelligence, declined to comment on the uranium discovery, as did officials at the State Department.
Enriched uranium would essentially be of little more utility in a conventional artillery weapon than natural uranium and significantly more expensive. The North Korean explanation is not a credible one.
The Fox News story on this subject continues:
The equipment was described as a set of “smelted aluminum tubes” suitable for an HEU centrifuge program, a step necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
“They got some ‘splainin’ to do,” one U.S. arms control official said when first told of the discovery about a month ago, he recalled to FOX.
However, North Korea claims the tubes were intended for use in the development of a conventional “artillery” weapon, sources told FOX News.
As part of a six-nation disarmament deal, North Korea is disabling its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and related nuclear facilities, and is obligated to provide a “complete and correct” declaration of all their nuclear programs, weapons, and materiel by Dec. 31.
American officials anxiously have been waiting to see whether, and to what extent, the North Koreans will acknowledge the existence of their HEU program, about which the United States first confronted Pyongyang in October 2002.
The Koreans initially admitted to having an HEU program, said Mike Green, a former National Security Council staff aide who was present for the October 2002.
“It was in several sentences in a way that they were talking about it as if it existed,” Green said. He summed up the initial North Korean response as: “If you want to negotiate about it, we have more — even more powerful programs. We have the right to this.”
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has confirmed as much.
During the October 2002 talks, U.S. officials “repeatedly asked, ‘Are you actually saying that you have a highly enriched uranium program?’ And the answer back was ‘yes,’ ” McCormack told reporters Feb. 23.
But not long after that meeting five years ago, the North Koreans retracted their story and reverted to a stance of completely denying they ever had an HEU program.
Green told FOX News he believes the data supporting the existence of the North Korean HEU program: It was not like the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and that there was no dissent from any quarter of the American intelligence community about the HEU program.
The finding brings up a host of other questions including to what degree the North Koreans had succeeded in enriching uranium, whether they produced HEU, how much HEU North Korea produced, and what it’s disposition has been. BTW what was it those North Korean technicians were doing in Syria, again?