MOSCOW, September 4 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea has begun the final stage of uranium enrichment, a method of producing nuclear weapons, state media said on Friday.
"Uranium enrichment tests have been successfully carried out and that process is in the concluding stage," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying.
KCNA was detailing a report sent to the UN Security Council in which the communist state's envoy to the United Nations, Sin Son-ho, said that the North would be "left with no choice but to take yet stronger self-defensive countermeasures," if the UN continued with its sanctions against Pyongyang.
Tough sanctions were imposed on North Korea after a nuclear test in May that followed the launch of a rocket widely believed to have been cover for the test of a ballistic missile. UN criticism of the launch led to the North leaving six-party talks on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. In June, in response to the imposition of sanctions, Pyongyang announced that it would start to enrich uranium.
North Korea already has a plutonium-based nuclear program that analysts say has the potential to yield several atomic bombs. Pyongyang had consistently denied however that it was also running a uranium-based program.
The announcement comes after series of conciliatory gestures on behalf of the North, including the freeing of two U.S. journalists convicted of spying. Just under two weeks ago, the first meeting between South and North Korean officials for almost two years took place in Seoul.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry called the latest North Korean statement "provocations."
Washington's special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, said the North's announcement on uranium enrichment was "of concern."
"Anything that the North is doing in the area of nuclear development is of concern to us," he told journalists in Beijing, adding that the announcement proved the need to "maintain a coordinated position on the need for complete, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
The KCNA report said however that the North had "never objected to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and of the world itself," adding that the structure of the six party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan, had been used to "violate outrageously" its sovereignty and its "right to peaceful development."