May 11, 2018 12:55
The U.S. is calling on North Korea to relocate its nuclear engineers overseas and discard data from its nuclear development program, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Thursday. It said the demand came in preliminary talks for the summit between the two countries on June 12.
The U.S. made it clear that it will target not only hardware like nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities but also the brains behind the operation and all the data the North has acquired, according to the Japanese daily.
A government official here was unable to confirm the story but said, "It's true that the U.S. is thinking hard about how to deal with the 10,000-odd North Korean nuclear engineers."
As long as they remain in the North, the regime could simply restart its nuclear program whenever it likes even if materials, weapons and facilities are dismantled completely. Another fear is that they could spread or sell their knowledge to other rogue regimes or terrorists.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his inaugural address on May 2 insisted on the "permanent" as well as verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction.
"How to handle North Korea's nuclear engineers is the core of the permanent dismantling of its nuclear weapons," a diplomatic source said.
The most prominent example of a nuclear scientist going rogue is Abdul Qadeer Khan (83), known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. Khan sold centrifugal separator technology, which is needed for the production of highly enriched uranium, to Iran in the late 1980s and to North Korea and Libya in the 1990s. In 2001, he wrote to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he could help Syria produce nuclear bombs.
Khan admitted to his crime and was put under house arrest in 2004. He was freed by a court in 2009 because of the reverence in which Pakistanis hold him but cannot travel abroad.
It is not certain how many nuclear engineers there are in the North. Estimates run to up to 10,000.
The U.S. has previously used the Nunn–Lugar Act to check the denuclearization process of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states. The act envisioned providing technology and funds for Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine to remove nuclear and chemical weapons and delivery systems that were left behind after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Named for Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar who jointly motioned the bill in 1991, it helped 58,000 nuclear and missile engineers find other jobs or move to other countries.
"North Korea's nuclear scientists live in isolated areas like Yongbyon," said Lee Chun-geun of the Science and Technology Policy Institute. "We need to help them retrain and find jobs in other fields by studying the Nunn–Lugar Act."
According to the Asahi Shimbun story, North Korea is "resisting the relocation" idea and "being vague" on the abandonment of data.
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