December 29, 2009 09:46
North Korea had enriched small amounts of uranium by 2002 with some 3,000 centrifuges and a plant making uranium hexafluoride, a gas essential for the process, built there in the 1990s, the Washington Post reported on Sunday citing the renegade nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
The paper based the claim on a previously unpublicized account by Khan (73), the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb who has since been hawking nuclear technology around the world to all comers, including the North.
The daily quoted Khan as saying, "Pakistan helped the country with vital machinery, drawings and technical advice for at least six years." In return, North Korea taught Pakistan "how to make Krytrons -- extremely fast electrical switches that are used in nuclear detonations and are tightly controlled in international commerce."
Khan also recalled a tour of the UF6 plant, which he said was built "without help," during a visit to the North in 1999. The North's UF6 production capacity was two tons a year in the initial stage but later increased to 10 tons a year. North Korea sent a ton of UF6 to Pakistan for experimental purposes and in return Pakistan supplied its own sample to North Korea to use as the standard production model, he added.
Han Song-ryol, the North Korean ambassador to the UN, denied his country had a uranium program before last spring or ever discussed the issue with Khan "in Pakistan," the paper said.
Khan, who is revered by many Pakistanis, has been under house arrest in Islamabad since he was arrested on charges of nuclear proliferation in December 2003 and has threatened to "disclose sensitive information if he remains in confinement," the Washington Post said.
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