North Korea reveals a nuclear plant. The US says it's not concerned.
Even though US envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth gave no hint of military escalation, he's gone to Seoul and Tokyo seeking support to deescalate North Korea's nuclear program.
Seoul, South Korea
US nuclear envoy Stephen Bosworth faced the challenge Monday of coming up with a formula acceptable to both South Korea and Japan for getting North Korea to back down from what appears to be a major escalation of its nuclear program.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Bosworth, stopping off in Seoul for talks with South Korea's new foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan, and veteran nuclear negotiator Wi Sun-lac, said "this is not a crisis" but talked as if it were. Accusing North Korea of committing "another in a series of provocative moves," he confirmed that North Korea was building "a facility" at its main nuclear complex "to produce enriched uranium."
The revelation of the project at the Yongbyon complex, revealed by US nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker after a visit there, means that North Korea is nearing the stage at which it can produce enriched uranium for either electrical energy or warheads.
North Koreans told Mr. Hecker and Charles "Jack" Pritchard, a former US nuclear envoy who also visited the facility, that it was the lightwater kind, solely to produce energy, but analysts doubt that claim in view of North Korea's record of producing materiel for nuclear warheads with plutonium at their core at the same complex.
North Korea's evident success so far in the uranium project means that it will soon have a second reactor that's capable of making warheads quite rapidly once North Korean scientists and engineers have perfected the technology. They're believed to be using components acquired from outside the country despite UN sanctions imposed after the North's second underground nuclear test in May 2009.
Bosworth sought during his visit here to convince leaders that the US would act firmly to try to bring North Korea to terms. He had essentially the same mission in Japan but faces difficulties when he goes to Beijing Tuesday. Chinese officials are not expected to be nearly as sympathetic with his mission – and may not be inclined to try to pressure North Korea into pulling back on its program.