Thursday, March 01, 2007

U.S. Not So Sure About NK Uranium Program

Oddly enough, this may be a good sign.

Lately the intelligence has fallen apart only after we have attacked the nation in question. Analytical rigor could be making a comeback.

The Bush administration is backing away from its long-held assertions that North Korea has an active clandestine program to enrich uranium, leading some experts to believe that the original U.S. intelligence that started the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions may have been flawed.

The chief intelligence officer for North Korea, Joseph R. DeTrani, told Congress on Tuesday that while there is "high confidence" North Korea acquired materials that could be used in a "production-scale" uranium program, there is only "mid-confidence" such a program exists. Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, the chief negotiator for disarmament talks, told a conference last week in Washington that it is unclear whether North Korea ever mastered the production techniques necessary for such a program. ...

The administration's stance today stands in sharp contrast to the certainty expressed by top officials in 2002, when the administration accused Pyongyang of running a secret uranium program -- and demanded it be dismantled at once. President Bush told a news conference that November: "We discovered that, contrary to an agreement they had with the United States, they're enriching uranium, with a desire of developing a weapon." ...

Plutonium and highly enriched uranium provide different routes to building nuclear weapons. The North Koreans were able to reprocess spent fuel rods -- which had been monitored by U.N. inspectors under the 1994 agreement -- to obtain the weapons-grade plutonium for a nuclear test last year. A uranium-enrichment program would have required Pyongyang to build a facility with thousands of uranium-spinning centrifuges to obtain the highly enriched uranium needed for a weapon. Iran's nuclear program, which the United States alleges is intended for weapons, involves enriched uranium.

It is unclear why the new assessment is being disclosed now. But some officials suggested that the timing could be linked to North Korea's recent agreement to reopen its doors to international arms inspectors. As a result, these officials have said, the intelligence agencies are facing the possibility that their assessments will once again be compared to what is actually found on the ground. "This may be preventative," one American diplomat said.

Not to mention how helpful this development is to the new emphasis by the U.S. towards a negotiated end to NK's nuclear weapons program.


Anonymous General Buck said...

Isn't this in line with what you've been countercurrently
suggesting for the longest of whiles?

3/02/2007 6:16 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...

General Buck:

My info had to do with the existence (actually the non-existence) of a finished NK nuclear weapon.

But this Uranium controversy might have been part of the reason for the skepticism of the NK's capabilities.

3/02/2007 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Gen. Buck said...

never one to take credit for what one might not fully deserve. Such a scout

3/03/2007 7:56 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...

Gen. Buck:

There is plenty of glory enough to go around.

3/03/2007 8:54 AM  

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