Seoul, Washington Suspect More N.Korean Uranium Sites

South Korea and the U.S. are trying to find out if North Korea is clandestinely operating more undisclosed uranium enrichment facilities in addition to a plant at Yongbyon it recently showed to visiting U.S. expert.

"Yongbyon was not included in the list of three or four locations that Seoul and Washington had previously suspected," a South Korean intelligence official said Monday. "We understand that the North has long been conducting a uranium enrichment experiment somewhere else."

South Korean and U.S. officials were surprised to hear about the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon after Siegfried Hecker's visit early last month.

North Korean officials told Hecker the facility is equipped with 2,000 centrifuges. Hecker himself said he saw "hundreds."

In an article for Foreign Affairs last Friday, he writes, "The centrifuge facility we saw is most likely designed to make reactor, not bomb, fuel, because it would not make sense to construct it in a previously inspected site and show it to foreign visitors. However, it is highly likely that a parallel covert facility capable of [highly enriched uranium] production exists elsewhere in the country."

South Korea and the U.S. apparently have their eye on a research institute in downtown Pyongyang and a missile base in Yongjori, Ryanggang Province, as well as a cave complex in Kumchangri 160 km north of Pyongyang, as sites suspected of being secret uranium enrichment facilities.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 14, 2010 07:37 KST