N. Korea says it has reached final phase of uranium enrichment

September 3, 2009 10:12 pm 

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SEOUL, Sept. 4 — North Korea said Friday it has entered the final stage of uranium enrichment and is manufacturing more plutonium bombs in response to the U.N.'s tight sanctions against Pyongyang.

In an apparent two-track strategy, the North also said it stands ready for "both dialogue and sanctions."

"Experimental uranium enrichment has successfully been conducted to enter into completion phase," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. "Reprocessing of spent fuel rods is at its final phase and extracted plutonium is being weaponized."

The KCNA was detailing the contents of a letter by Pyongyang's top U.N envoy to the head of the U.N. Security Council, which imposed a set of tough sanctions on the communist state following its missile and nuclear tests in spring through the adoption of Resolution 1874.

U.N. Ambassador Sin Son-ho said in the letter that his country would have not carried out its second nuclear test in May if the 15-member council had "kept silent" over Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch the month prior, as it did over South Korea's attempted satellite launch in August.

If the U.N. council continues the sanctions drive, the North will be "left with no choice but to take yet stronger self-defensive countermeasures as it had already warned," the KCNA quoted the letter as saying.

Sin was not available for comment but another official at the North's U.N. mission in New York told Yonhap News Agency that, "It is true we sent the letter. All of what the KCNA reported is true."

South Korea's top nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lac, said North Korea's threats hamper efforts to resume the six-way talks on its nuclear program.

"It is not helpful," Wi said. "I will talk with Special Representative Stephen Bosworth on how to cope with the situation."

Bosworth, Washington's special representative for North Korea policy, is due to fly into Seoul on Friday afternoon from Beijing as part of his regional tour aimed at kick-starting the moribund denuclearization process.

Wi said the North's letter might not be directly related to Bosworth's trip but that the KCNA media report could be intended to grab his attention.

The North reportedly extended an invitation to Bosworth to visit Pyongyang for bilateral talks, but the Obama administration rejected it, saying the North should first return to the six-way talks and calling the release of detained American and South Korean citizens "marginal steps."

The State Department made clear that Bosworth has no plans to travel to the North during his ongoing regional visit.

Signaling its desire for direct talks with the U.S., the KCNA said, "The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is closely related with the U.S. (as) well."

"We have never objected to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and of the world itself. What we objected to is the structure of the six-way talks which had been used to violate outrageously the DPRK's sovereignty and its right to peaceful development," it added. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The North fired a rocket in April in what many saw as a ballistic missile test, but claimed it was part of a space program. Shortly after the U.N. condemnation of the action, Pyongyang declared its exit from the six-party talks, which also include South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

In June, the North said it had begun uranium enrichment and would weaponize all the plutonium it extracted from the country's main nuclear facilities in Yongbyon. (PNA/Yonhap)

ALM/ebp

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