N. Korea preps for its first enriched-uranium test
North Korea has announced it is going to conduct a new nuclear test today, in what the South believes will be the first test of its enriched-uranium weapon.
Pyongyang carried out two nuclear tests at the site Pungeri in the northeastern part of the Korean Peninsula.
Experts say both times charges of weapon grade plutonium were exploded. The plutonium, they claim, was extracted from the spent fuel used at the country’s only nuclear reactor. North Korea is rumoured to have accumulated a stock of discharged plutonium to make six to eight charges.
This time, the North is allegedly set to demonstrate the success of its nuclear program. Korea’s National Defense Committee announced Thursday it would go ahead with satellite and long-range missile launches.
North Korean state media has said that Pyongyang plans to carry out a third nuclear test and more long-range rocket launches, which it says will be targeted at the United States.
The announcement by the country's top military body came a day after the United Nations Security Council agreed a U.S.-backed resolution to censure and sanction the country for a rocket launch in December that breached U.N. rules.
"We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States," North Korea's National Defence Commission said, according to state news agency KCNA.
North Korea is believed by South Korea and other observers to be "technically ready" for a third nuclear test, and the decision to go ahead rests with leader Kim Jong-un who pressed ahead with the December rocket launch in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.
On December 12, 2012, North Korea launched a space rocket. Although the North Korean authorities claim that this was a part of the country’s program of peaceful space exploration, rockets of this type may be used for military purposes as well. The authorities of many countries assessed this step of North Korea as a violation of a ban to test nuclear weapons and launch ballistic missiles, which was introduced against North Korea several years ago.
Recently, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution which added more economic sanctions to those that were introduced against South Korea for similar tests in 2006 and 2009. These sanctions, in fact, are blocking North Korean companies, that produce rockets or missiles or have to do with the nuclear power industry, from being financed from any sources outside North Korea.
The newly adopted resolution extends this ban on North Korea’s Committee of Space Technologies, four North Korean corporations that purchase equipment for development of nuclear missile technologies, and North Korea’s Bank of East Land. It is through this bank that money from abroad has come to North Korea in spite of bans introduced by UN Security Council.
Russia and China voted for the recent resolution of the UN Security Council, although Russia insists that such measures against South Korea should be more thoroughly worked out. Russia’s Permanent Representative in the UN, Vitaly Churkin, suggests that for this, the UN should use all the mechanisms that are in its disposal. Besides, Russia insists that the members of the Security Council and all the institutions and companies that are in this or that way touched by these sanctions should clearly realize all the possible consequences of these sanctions.
As it might have been expected, North Korea has rejected the UN resolution, as it already did with similar resolutions in 2006 and 2009. Moreover, North Korea’s authorities have said that their response to this resolution will be further development of their country’s military might. It is not ruled out that this “military might” may include nuclear weapons as well.
Besides, North Korea has announced that it is withdrawing from talks of the 6 countries, which are aimed at total liquidation of nuclear weapons both in South Korea and in North Korea.
“These talks have been held, with several interruptions, for already 10 years,” Konstantin Asmolov from the Russian Institute of Far East says. “Besides the two Koreas, other participants are the US, China, Russia and Japan.”
“The fact that North Korea is withdrawing from these talks is a rather dangerous sign,” Mr. Asmolov says. “However, it has already withdrawn from these talks several times – and returned again. Most likely, it will do the same this time as well.”
It should be noted that initially, China was against new sanctions against North Korea. China’s authorities were concerned that this may only provoke North Korea towards more tests of nuclear weapons, as in the spring of 2009. That time, after the UN condemned North Korea for launching a rocket, North Korea answered by testing a nuclear bomb. So, China insisted that this time, instead of sanctions, the UN should limit itself to issuing a statement of the UN Security Council’s Chairman, which would condemn the launch of the North Korean rocket.
However, after long talks between the US and China, US diplomats have persuaded China’s representatives in the UN to vote for sanctions against North Korea. When China’s ambassador in the UN Li Baodong voted for them, he suggested that besides economic sanctions against North Korea, the world community should try to search for diplomatic ways to persuade the North Korean authorities to refrain from new rocket launches and nuclear tests.