North Korea is providing evidence to the United States aimed at proving that it never intended to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, undermining a key U.S. intelligence finding, South Korean and U.S. officials said this week.
In closely held talks, the North Korean government has granted U.S. experts access to equipment and documents to make its case, in preparation for declaring the extent of its nuclear activities before the end of the year. North Korean officials hope the United States will simultaneously lift sanctions against Pyongyang as the declaration is made.
If North Korea successfully demonstrates that U.S. accusations about the uranium-enrichment program are wrong, it will be a blow to U.S. intelligence and the Bush administration’s credibility.
The U.S. charges of a large-scale uranium program led to the collapse of a Clinton-era agreement that had frozen a North Korean reactor that produced a different nuclear substance — plutonium. That development freed North Korea to use the plutonium route toward gathering the material needed for a nuclear weapon. Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test last year, detonating a plutonium-based device, and has built a plutonium stockpile that experts estimate could yield eight to 10 nuclear weapons. [complete article]