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N. Korea vows to proceed with its nuclear program

The North Korean government says it intends to weaponize its remaining stockpile of plutonium and to pursue uranium enrichment despite the latest U.N. sanctions resolution.

June 14, 2009|Barbara Demick

BEIJING — North Korea, calling itself a "proud nuclear power," vowed Saturday to forge ahead with its nuclear program in defiance of the latest United Nations sanctions.

In a statement released by the Foreign Ministry, North Korea said it intended to weaponize its stockpile of plutonium and pursue uranium enrichment.

Bluster is the stock in trade of Pyongyang's propaganda machine, but coming on the heels of an apparently successful nuclear test May 25, the threats are chilling. Weapons analysts believe that North Korea, despite its abject poverty and isolation, has made remarkable technical progress putting together a workable nuclear weapon.

"Some people do believe that their claims are credible," said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the think tank International Crisis Group.

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory who has toured North Korea's nuclear facilities, wrote in a recent article for Foreign Policy magazine's website that North Korea was "on a well-planned trajectory to enhance its nuclear and missile capabilities."

North Korea's latest rhetorical volley was prompted by the unanimous passage Friday by the 15-member U.N. Security Council of a sanctions package that would allow interdictions of North Korean vessels on the high seas.

"It has become an absolutely impossible option for [North Korea] to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons. It makes no difference . . . whether its nuclear status is recognized or not," North Korea said in the statement.

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barbara.demick@latimes.com

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