N.Korea Admits Uranium Program After 7 Years

      June 15, 2009 11:15

      North Korea consistently denied that it was pursuing a uranium enrichment program since the U.S. first made the allegation in 2002. Yet on Saturday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry announced that it had already begun testing its uranium enrichment technology.

      The allegation surfaced in October of 2002, during a visit to Pyongyang by James Kelly, then Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Kelly said there were suspicions that North Korea was trying to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium, citing evidence gathered by U.S. sources. The U.S. then halted the supply of heavy oil to the Stalinist country.

      North Korea retaliated by withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, nullifying the Geneva Agreement that had been in effect for more than eight years. Since then, North Korea had insisted it had never had a uranium enrichment program. This triggered a tedious process of accusations and counter-accusations between the two sides. During the six-country talks, which began in 2003, the U.S. government pressured North Korea by producing evidence that the communist country imported equipment to produce highly enriched uranium from Pakistan, but the North simply denied everything.

      With the Sept. 19, 2005 statement of principles in which North Korea pledged to scrap its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, the uranium program slipped beneath the surface for a while, resurfacing last year when the North declared its nuclear inventory. North Korea again denied it needed to declare the uranium program under the agreement, saying it could not declare something it did not have.

      In the end, the U.S. and North Korea swept the issue under the carpet, with the chief negotiators to the six-party talks for the two countries agreeing that it would be solved in a separate, secret agreement between the two sides. The U.S. believed further verification attempts would shed light on suspicions over the program, but Washington ended up being played like a fiddle by North Korea.

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