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N Korea inching close towards nuke weapons: report

WASHINGTON (AP): North Korea may be moving ahead with a programme to enrich uranium to make nuclear weapons, according to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security.

Pyongyang "has moved beyond laboratory-scale work" and is now capable of building "at the very least, a pilot-scale" plant of centrifuges to enrich uranium, said the report based partly on information about related equipment purchases that North Korea has made from other nations.

The centrifuge programme "is an avenue for North Korea to increase the number and sophistication of its nuclear weapons and for it to proliferate to others who seek to build their own centrifuge programmes," said authors David Albright and Paul Brannan.

"As a result, the priority is finding ways to either stop the programme or to delay its progress through a combination of negotiations and sanctions."

The report is just the latest warning about Pyongyang's broader nuclear programme.

The institute already said this week that satellite images from September 29 showed new construction in the area around North Korea's nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, where the reclusive regime produced plutonium. And Kim Tae-hyo, the South Korean president's deputy national security adviser, warned in comments this week that the threat posed by the North's nuclear program has reached an "extremely dangerous level."

North Korea frequently buys equipment for its uranium enrichment programme either directly in China or by using China as a transshipment point, Friday's report said.

"There is no evidence that the Chinese government is secretly approving or wilfully ignoring exports to North Korea's centrifuge programme in an effort to strengthen North Korea's nuclear weapons programme," the report said.

"Nonetheless, China is not applying enough resources to detect and stop North Korea's illicit nuclear trade."


N Korea  weapons  

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