North Korea already has a nuclear weapon but Iran does not, a deputy adviser at the White House National Security Council said Monday.
"The fact of the matter is North Korea already has a nuclear weapon. They acquired one, tested one in the beginning of 2006. And Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon," Ben Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One on a flight to New York.
Rhodes said this is why it is important "to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon" so the international community would not face the same "type of situation that we have in North Korea where you're seeking to denuclearize a country that has already crossed that threshold."
The statement could be controversial because the U.S. does not officially recognize North Korea as a nuclear state, though the distinction is largely a diplomatic fiction.
Patrick Ventrell, a deputy spokesman at the U.S. State Department, told Korean media by phone that there is no change in the U.S.' official position that it does not recognize the North as a nuclear state and has no plans to do so in the future.
Meanwhile, U.S. experts said the North is producing crucial centrifuge components on its own to make highly enriched uranium.
Joshua Pollack, a disarmament and nonproliferation expert at the Science Applications International Corporation, told the New York Times that since 2003, the North's imports of crucial components of centrifuges have not been monitored. It seems that at least since 2009, the North has been producing those components on its own.
If that is true, then sanctions aimed at preventing the North from importing components that could be used to make nuclear arms could be less damaging to the North than the international community hoped.