North Korea claims final stage uranium enrichment

North Korea said Friday that it is in the final stages of enriching uranium, a process that could give the nation a second way to make nuclear bombs in addition to its known plutonium-based program.

North Korea informed the UN Security Council it is forging ahead with its nuclear programs in spite of international calls to abandon its atomic ambitions, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a report early today.

The dispatch said plutonium "is being weaponized," and that uranium enrichment — a program North Korea revealed in recent months — was entering the "completion phase."

The US and North Korea's neighbors had been negotiating for years with North Korea to dismantle its plutonium-based nuclear program, which experts say has yielded enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs.

Experts had long suspected that the North also had a covert uranium enrichment program, which would give the regime a second source of nuclear material. North Korea for years denied the claim but in response to UN sanctions announced in June that it would begin uranium enrichment.

It's easier to build nuclear bombs using enriched uranium than reprocessing plutonium, and uranium can be enriched in relatively inconspicuous factories better able to evade spy-satellite detection, according to experts in the U.S. and at South Korea's Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control.

Uranium-based bombs may also work without requiring test explosions like the two carried out by North Korea in May and in 2006 for plutonium-based weapons.

However, plutonium bombs have more potential to be miniaturized to fit on top of a missile, one expert, Ivan Oelrich of the Federation of American Scientists, has said.

North Korea is not believed to have mastered making a nuclear bomb small enough to mount in a long-range missile. An April rocket launch widely condemned by international powers and the UN Security Council was seen by many as a test of its long-range missile technology.

Friday's statement comes amid a series of conciliatory moves after months of provocation, from the April rocket launch and May nuclear test to the test-firing of a flurry of missiles.

North Korea called its actions a response to the Security Council's decision to tighten sanctions against the regime as punishment for the May nuclear test, a resolution KCNA called a "wanton violation" of the country's sovereignty.

The US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have been trying for years to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for much-needed aid and other concessions. Pyongyang walked away from the talks earlier this year.

The North says it needs the nuclear program as a security guarantee against a threat from the U.S., which has 28,500 troops based in South Korea, which technically remains at war with the North because their three-year conflict in the early 1950s ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

"We are prepared for both dialogue and sanctions," the KCNA report said, warning it would be left with no choice but to take "yet stronger self-defensive countermeasures" if the standoff continues. It did not elaborate on the possible countermeasures.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry expressed regret and urged the communist country to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and return to the stalled disarmament talks.

"The North's move to continue provocative steps ... can never be tolerated. We will deal with North Korea's threats and provocative acts in a stern and consistent manner," the ministry said in a statement.

In Washington, a US State Department spokesman said Thursday night that he had no immediate comment.

The United States' envoy on North Korea, meanwhile, was in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials on how to get North Korea back to disarmament talks. Stephen Bosworth was to arrive in Seoul later Friday to speak to South Korean officials before traveling to Tokyo on Sunday.

His visit to the region aims to "continue consultations with our partners and allies on how to best convince North Korea that it must live up to its obligations ... and take irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization," the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in a statement.

KCNA said Friday that North Korea has never objected to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and left open possibility for dialogue with some permanent members of the Security Council — an apparent reference to the U.S.

The North has long sought one-on-one negotiations with Washington. The US has said it is willing to hold direct talks with Pyongyang, but under the framework of the six-nation disarmament talks.

In a promising sign, North Korea has freed two jailed American journalists and five detained South Koreans in recent weeks. The two Koreas also agreed to restart the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, and restored regular cross-border traffic to a joint factory park in the North.

Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung expressed hope that the North's latest move would not disrupt the family reunions set for later this month.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
i100
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments