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Satellite adds to evidence of N Korean bomb plans

Previously unpublished satellite photographs of a secret nuclear reprocessing facility in North Korea, where International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors were recently blocked as they attempted to take radioactive samples, have provided evidence that the country has an active nuclear bomb programme.

The commercially available photographs which contrast work on the site in 1986 and 1990 (see photograph, right), have been obtained by the Independent. They have been enhanced by computer and analysed by the Department of War Studies at King's College, London, and show that a facility near Yong byon could not possibly be the experimental nuclear reactor dating from 1965 and a new reactor under construction, as the North Koreans claim.

The evidence of these photographs coupled with powerful US satellite pictures of the site, which remain secret, and IAEA analysis appears to confirm that the country can produce the bomb. 'It is probable that North Korea has enough plutonium to manufacture a bomb,' said Patricia Lewis of Vertic, the London-based arms control treaty verification organisation. 'The issue now is whether they have the know-how to miniaturise a bomb that could be delivered by rocket and threaten Japan as well as South Korea.'

Senior diplomatic sources at the United Nations Security Council in New York fear that the crisis with the North Korean regime could quickly get out of control.

'With more than one million men under arms and 10,000 artillery pieces and rocket launchers almost within striking distance of Seoul we do not want to provoke a psychopathic response,' one official said yesterday as the Council met to hear a report from the Director of the IAEA, Hans Blix.

Comparison of enhanced images dating from 1986 (shown on the front page) with another photograph taken in 1990, provides prima facie evidence that North Korea is engaged in a full-scale nuclear bomb programme in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, nuclear arms experts say.

The IAEA inpspectors also found circumstantial evidence that North Korea is engaged in a clandestine nuclear bomb programme on their recent visit. 'They saw evidence of continuing construction work at the so-called radiological laboratory but they could not verify whether or not they were making plutonium,' said IAEA spokesman David Kydd.

US spy satellite photographs shown in secrecy to the IAEA prompted the recent inspection of the site. North Korea's reaction to the inspection now threatens to become an international crisis, with the UN Security Council preparing to slap sanctions on Korea if it does not co-operate.

Those images show that a 'radiological laboratory' at the same site is in fact a single-storey building constructed up top of a plutonium reprocessing facility buried deep underground, according to nuclear weapons experts.

North Korea has angrily rejected US evidence on the grounds that it was provided by 'the enemy'.

More evidence was found from analysing nuclear fuel processed at other North Korean sites that far more enriched uranium has been processed into potential bomb-making material than the authorities admit to.

By computer enhancement of satellite photographs, Dr Bhupendra Jasani, a senior research fellow at King's College, has been able to show that there are no electricity transmission lines coming in or out of the site of a reactor due to come on line next year.

There are no anti-aircraft, gun or missile sites around Yongbyon, but by enlarging the photographs Dr Jasani has identified three military airfields as well as a large ammunition storage site around the facility.

TOKYO - South Korea's President Kim Young Sam arrived in Tokyo yesterday to enlist Japanese help in facing down an increasingly frantic and defiant North Korea as military tensions mounted on the Korean peninsula, writes Terry McCarthy.

President Kim warned that war might break out between the two Koreas, but said he was determined to remain firm in the face of Pyongyang's increasingly threatening rhetoric.

(Photograph and map omitted)