North Korea's unveiling of a uranium enrichment facility to a U.S. expert "may be a ploy designed to threaten the international community," according to a senior North Korean defector who was involved in the North's nuclear and missile development programs.
The North showed what it said was a large uranium enrichment facility to Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert and co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
"If Pyongyang had really succeeded in making highly enriched uranium and producing nuclear weapons, it would have hidden it rather than making it public," the defector said Monday. He interpreted the unveiling as a ploy to get the North out of dire straits caused by a botched currency reform late last year and an exhausted treasury due to the expensive power transfer to leader Kim Jong-il's son. The North is getting desperate and trying to win concessions from the international community by ratcheting up the nuclear threat, he said.
The North in 2002 started making centrifuges for uranium enrichment by obtaining blueprints from Pakistan. "Under the command of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy, the country's top scientists were mobilized then to manufacture centrifuges," the defector said. But the regime's hopes came to naught since a centrifuge needs to rotate 70,000 times per minute to function properly but the North managed only 30,000 rotations per minute.
Claims that the North has more than 1,000 centrifuges are also unconvincing. "Core components have to be bought from Japan and Europe, so it would have been practically impossible under severe surveillance by the international community," he said.