Friday, May 01, 2009

North Korean nuclear test likely

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Obama administration official said he expects that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon before it is forced back to international disarmament negotiations.

At an event at the Brookings Institution, U.S. President Barack Obama's coordinator for weapons of mass destruction policy, Gary Samore, also on Friday expressed some understanding for Russia's objections to U.S. missile defense plans in Europe.

Samore said that North Korea was trying to divide the five countries that have been involved with it in disarmament talks. He said that North Korea was looking for ways to provoke problems.

"It's very clear that the North Koreans want to pick a fight," he said. "They want to kill the six-party talks."

North Korea has vowed to quit six-nation nuclear negotiations and restart its atomic program after the U.N. Security Council's criticism of North Korea's launch of a long-range missile on April 5. North Korea also kicked all international monitors out of its nuclear facilities.

Asked if he expected Pyongyang to carry out another nuclear test, Samore said: "I think they will. That's what they are threatening to do."

Pyongyang conducted its first atomic test in 2006, and is thought to have enough plutonium to make at least a half-dozen nuclear bombs.

Samore said that the United States is committed to the six-nation talks and predicted that North Korea would be forced back to negotiations within nine months.

"We'll just wait," he said. He added that he believed that other major powers would support further sanctions against North Korea if they carry out a test.

"The Chinese are very, very angry at the North Koreans," he said.

Among the five countries involved in the negotiations with North Korea, China is widely seen as having the most influence. It is also a member of the U.N. Security Council, which would have to approve any international sanctions.

On Russia, Samore broke with the old U.S. line formulated under the Bush administration, that Russia's objections to U.S. missile defense plans in Europe were completely unfounded.

He said that some of Russia's concerns were valid in the context of U.S.-Russia talks for long-term reduction of its nuclear arsenals.

The Bush administration had argued that its missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic were aimed at countering Iran and that the system's 10 interceptors were too few to pose a threat to Moscow's vast arsenal.

However, Samore said that Russia's concerns could be legitimate if the two countries significantly reduced their arsenals of nuclear missiles.

"When we go down to really low numbers


Link to the original article: Test


Additonal report:

Korea 'will test nuclear weapon'

A SENIOR United States government official said yesterday he expects that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon before it is forced back to international disarmament negotiations.

Gary Samore, co-ordinator for America's weapons of mass destruction policy, says North Korea wants to divide the five other countries involved in the nuclear talks.

Pyongyang has vowed to restart its atomic programme in anger at United Nations security council criticism of its long-range rocket launch on 5 April.

Link to original report: Weapon



North Korea seeks upper hand with nuclear threat


SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea's threats on Wednesday to conduct a nuclear test and fire an intercontinental ballistic missile are likely aimed at increasing its bargaining leverage with global powers.

The North said it would go ahead with the tests unless the U.N. Security Council apologized for tightening sanctions against Pyongyang in response to the reclusive state's rocket launch this month.

* Experts say that since the North's only nuclear test in October 2006 was just a partial success, another is inevitable because Pyongyang needs to see if it has built a better bomb design. A nuclear test is one of the biggest cards North Korea can play in its strategy of brinkmanship with the international community, and doing so would push Pyongyang right to the top of U.S. President Barack Obama's agenda.

* The North for years has used its military threat to squeeze concessions from regional powers. A nuclear test, coming so soon after the North defied global warnings and launched a long-range rocket in early April, would give it more options to play in its dealings with Washington.

* It will be difficult for the North to back down from its threat unless a face-saving solution can be found. But a test, if it does occur, would not likely happen for several months due to the preparation needed.

* A test would likely rattle financial markets in North Asia, which shrugged off the North's launch of the long-range missile this month.

* North Korea will alienate China, its last major ally and biggest benefactor, with a nuclear test. It will likely be hit with further U.N. sanctions as a result because Beijing may not use its U.N. Security Council veto to protect Pyongyang, which will also take a hit financially for the large costs it takes to conduct a test.

* But since the isolated North may already feel the pinch from a tightening of existing sanctions called for in response to the rocket launch, it may believe the economic damage that would come after a test would not deal too heavy a blow to its already wobbly economy.

* A second nuclear test would also deplete the North's meager supply of fissile material, which experts say is estimated to be enough for six to eight nuclear weapons.

* North Korea will likely try to resume all of its nuclear activities, after it started to take apart its Yongbyon nuclear plant in a disarmament-for-aid deal it reached with the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

* The North said this month it had restarted its facility at Yongbyon that separates plutonium from spent fuel rods cooling at the plant, which could eventually give it enough fissile material for one more nuclear bomb.

* A second nuclear test would be heralded by the North's propaganda machinery as a triumph for leader Kim Jong-il and his "military-first" policy. This would help Kim further solidify his leadership after questions were raised about his grip on power after he was suspected of suffering a stroke in August.

Link to original report: Threat

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