Wednesday, February 02, 2005

North Korea Exported Nuclear Material to Libya

The Washington Post reports:

North Korea has reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium and appears to have exported nuclear material to Libya, U.S. officials informed Asian allies this week. (...)

The nuclear material that North Korea may have exported to Libya was uranium hexafluoride. This is not fissile material but can be enriched into weapons-grade material if it is fed into nuclear centrifuges. Thus, it is considered material that could eventually be used in weapons, making the discovery of the sale disturbing to U.S. officials. (...)

The determination that North Korea provided the uranium hexafluoride was made by a technical group within the Energy Department. It examined containers obtained from Libya -- which gave up its nuclear programs in a deal with the United States and Britain -- and picked up signatures of plutonium produced at Yongbyon, where North Korea has its nuclear facilities. The U.S. official said that because North Korea probably would have produced much of the uranium hexafluoride at the Yongbyon facility, this was deemed the link that connected the material in the containers to the North Koreans.

"This was not a conclusion reached by the CIA" or the intelligence bureau at the State Department, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the intelligence matter. "This was the lab technicians from DOE."

He said this gave added credence to the report because it was based not on a murky intelligence assessment but on hard data.

More fallout from finding Saddam. First it pushed Libya to abandon its nuclear program and turn over all materials to the US, and now that turnover has shown/proven to us that North Korea is exporting nuclear weapons materials and/or technology.

This does not change the fact that this still is a time for diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis North Korea, but it does demonstrate once again, if we really needed another demonstration, that the military option must be kept on the table.


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