December 11, 2010 08:33
North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities grew substantially under the Sunshine Policy during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, and the North now reportedly has about a dozen nuclear weapons. Pyongyang is also operating hundreds or even thousands of uranium enrichment centrifuges, whose existence South Korean leftwingers denied.
"As a result of the former administrations' deliberate disregard under a decade of the Sunshine Policy, the crisis is now coming to a head," a Cheong Wa Dae staffer said Monday.
◆ No Halt to Nuclear Development
North Korea's nuclear development program was no threat in February 1998 when the Kim Dae-jung government was inaugurated. No nuclear test had taken place, nor was there a uranium enrichment program. The 1994 Geneva Framework Agreement, whereby the North agreed to freeze its nuclear facilities if it was given light-water reactors, seemed to be working. But now North Korea has "about 10" nuclear bombs, according to a Unification Ministry estimate.
The North long denied its uranium enrichment program. Suspicions were first raised in October 2002 by then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly. The South Korean leftwingers, taking sides with the North, said the program was invented by the neocons in the U.S. to ratchet up tensions and block reconciliation in Northeast Asia. In February 2007, then Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said there was "no intelligence" that the North has a uranium enrichment program.
But in early October this year, the North showed U.S. nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker a facility with hundreds of centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Uranium nuclear weapons can be developed covertly and do not require testing like plutonium-based weapons. "They are more dangerous than nuclear weapons made from plutonium extracted from reactors," said Cheon Seong-whun of the Korea Institute for National Unification. A uranium enrichment facility with 1,000 centrifuges requires a mere 900 sq.m area and can enrich 20 kg of uranium a year, sufficient to make one nuclear weapon.
North Korea started building enrichment facilities in the early 2000s, said a senior North Korean military scientist who defected to the South in 2000. That was when the first inter-Korean summit was in preparation. The joint statement agreed in the first summit did not mention the nuclear program at all, and the second summit communiqué only said "joint efforts" should be made to resolve the nuclear issue."
◆ Missile Development
When Kim Jong-un officially emerged as heir to Kim Jong-il on Oct. 10 in a military parade on the anniversary of the Workers Party, an intermediate-range ballistic missile was shown to the international press for the first time. Dubbed "Musudan" by the U.S. intelligence services, it has a range of 3,000 to 4,000 km, making it capable of reaching the strategic U.S. military base in Guam.
North Korea has simultaneously boosted nuclear and missile capabilities in the past decade, because "it can threaten the U.S. as well as the South only if it can load nuclear warheads on missiles," said Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. The so-called Taepodong 1 missile the North test-fired in August 1998 flew some 1,600 km. The firing came four days prior to the opening of the 20th session of the Supreme People's Assembly, which marked the launch of the Kim Jong-il regime.
The Taepodong 2 missile, fired in July 2006, failed, but a long-range missile launched in April 2009 flew 3,200-odd km. The North is now bent on developing missiles with a range of 6,700 km, capable of attacking Alaska and Guam. It has over 600 Scud missiles with a range of 300 to 500 km and 200-plus Rodong missiles with a range of 1,300 km.
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