Last Updated 15 Apr 2021

Combating the Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

Category Terrorism
Essay type Research
Words 6842 (27 pages)

Statement at end of two-day summit in Seoul pledges strong action and closer co-operation against nuclear terrorism. World leaders attending a summit in the South Korean capital Seoul have pledged strong action and closer co-operation to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism.

In a statement issued at the end of the two-day 53-nation nuclear summit, the leaders reaffirmed "shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy". "Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security," it said. "Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international co-operation given its potential global, political, economic, social and psychological consequences. The statement welcomed "substantive progress" on national commitments made at the  first nuclear security summit in Washington in 2010. Action stressed Before the summit concluded, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said nuclear terrorism remained a "grave threat", while US President Barack Obama said action was important. Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the group to work together on the issue.

"The planned missile launch North Korea recently announced would go against the international community's nuclear non-proliferation effort and violate UN Security Council resolutions." - Yoshihiko Noda, Japanese PM.

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While the official agenda of the summit was to strengthen measures to track the movement of nuclear materials worldwide, much of the dialogue focussed on efforts to get North Korea to back off a planned rocket launch scheduled for next month and return to disarmament talks. North Korea announced earlier this month that it would send a satellite into space aboard a long-range rocket. Pyongyang has said the launch is part of its peaceful space programme and says a new southern flight path is meant to avoid other countries.

Previous rockets have been fired over Japan. The secretive North was widely criticised on the sidelines of the meeting, including by main ally China, but host Seoul has explicitly stated Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction programmes were off the table during the summit itself. Defiant North Korea On Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said that the launch would go ahead as planned. North Korea ''will never give up the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes''', the spokesman said in a statement in the official KCNA news agency.

Iran's nuclear programme was also on the minds of the summit participants, as Obama met the leaders of Russia and China on the sidelines to work towards a resolution. Obama had said that the threat of nuclear weapons remained a potent challenge for the globe to confront, telling foreign leaders that "the security of the world depends on the actions that we take". Neither Iran nor North Korea had participated in the summit.

 A South Korean minister has sounded a warning about "unprecedented" power shortages after two nuclear reactors were shut down to replace components that had not been properly vetted. The two units at the Yeonggwang nuclear complex were shut down on Monday and may remain offline until early January. It's inevitable that we will experience unprecedented power shortage during the coming winter with the two reactors shut," Hong Suk-Woo, the economy minister, said. However, he said the "non-core" components posed no safety threat and were unrelated to a string of systems malfunctions at reactors this year that triggered calls for a safety review. Last month, authorities temporarily shut down two 1,000-megawatt reactors at separate nuclear plants after system malfunctions which were also blamed for another reactor at Yeonggwang being tripped into automatic shutdown in July.

Engineers will replace more than 5,000 fuses in the units shut down, cooling fans and other parts for which suppliers had provided bogus quality certificates. "Comprehensive safety check-ups are necessary at these two reactors where the uncertified parts were used extensively," Hong said. South Korea operates 23 nuclear power reactors which meet more than 35 per cent of the country's electricity needs. It plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030. The government has pledged to continue using nuclear energy despite public concerns arising from last year's nuclear disaster in Japan.

If the two Yeonggwang reactors are not brought back online as scheduled, Hong warned of a "dramatic" drop in national power reserves to 300,000 kilowatts in January, compared to the government target of 4. 5 million kilowatts. "Energy authorities are preparing a super-intense power supply emergency plan, which will be carried out in mid-November," Hong said, without elaborating. All parts supplied for use in South Korea's nuclear plants require quality and safety warranties from one of 12 international organisations designated by Seoul.

Eight suppliers cited by Hong faked 60 warranties covering nearly 7,700 items that had been provided at a cost of $750,000, Hong said. Of the total, more than 5,200 parts have been used in five reactors - 99 per cent of them in the two Yeonggwang units closed on Monday. Hong said prosecutors would investigate the suppliers as well as possible collusion by officials of the state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP).

World leaders gather for their second summit to strengthen efforts in securing nuclear material around the world. | Around 50 world leaders have gathered in South Korea to discuss measures to fight the threat of nuclear terrorism, including the protection of nuclear materials and facilities, as well as the prevention of trafficking of nuclear materials. Barack Obama, the US president, used the opening day of the nuclear security summit to set out a series of wide-ranging goals on nuclear policy.

But this year’s summit takes place against a backdrop of growing tensions over the nuclear standoff with Iran and concerns about North Korea's plans to launch a satellite next month - a launch that the US, South Korea and others believe is a missile test. So, how big a threat is nuclear terrorism? Who sets the criteria for acquiring nuclear weapons? Are there grounds for accusing Western governments of double standards? And can a problem of such magnitude be tackled by voluntary agreements made at the summit?

Inside Story, with presenter Laura Kyle, discusses with Richard Burt, the chief US negotiator in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty who is also the US chairman of Global Zero which seeks elimination of nuclear weapons; Mark Hibbs, a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Riad Kah-waji with the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. "Even after New Start [Treaty signed with Russia two years ago], the US will still have more than 15,000 deployed nuclear weapons and some 5,000 warheads.

I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal. "Barack Obama, the US president| Nuclear warheads around the world: Though the exact number of nuclear weapons in each country's possession is a closely-guarded national secret, there are estimates available. Of the countries that are members of the non-proliferation treaty:

Russia is believed to have around 10,000 nuclear warheads

  • The US is estimated to have 8,500
  • France is believed to have 300
  • China is estimated to have 240
  •  The UK is said to have 225

Of the non-member countries:

  • Israel is said to have 80 nuclear warheads, though it refuses to confirm or deny whether it has any
  •  Pakistan is thought to have between 90 and 110
  • India is believed to have between 80 to 100
  • North Korea is believed to have enough material to produce up to 10 devices Asia-pacific

South Korea is preparing to host the heads of more than 50 nations and international organisations at a nuclear security summit in Seoul. The meeting, starting on Monday, comes a year after the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan and participants will discuss efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and how to restore faith in civil nuclear energy. Participants include US President Barack Obama, who is due to visit the border zone between the two Koreas on Sunday, and Chinese President Hu Jintao. The controversial nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran are not due to be formally discussed.

But Obama is expected to hold talks on the sidelines with both Hu and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak over North Korea's plans to launch a satellite into space aboard a long-range rocket next month. Dozens of protesters from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand gathered near the summit venue in downtown Seoul on Friday to denounce the gathering, saying nuclear energy was threatening the safety of their lives. "The nuclear energy industry told us the industry is safe, but actually, there have been many accidents that happened," Lee Heonseok, a protester, said. We think those accidents will be repeated in the future. Therefore, we insist the nuclear energy industry should disappear. " Richard Broinowski, a professor at the University of Sydney and former Australian ambassador to South Korea, told Al Jazeera that the summit was aimed at rebuilding confidence in the nuclear industry. "The point of the safety nuclear conference should be about terrorism and the breakdown of systems, such as what happened in Fukushima, and what to do about them," he said. But the summit could be overshadowed by diplomatic fallout from North Korea's announcement of its planned rocket launch.

North Korea said earlier this month that it had halted its nuclear programme, weapons testing and long-range missile launches and was ready to return to international talks in return for US food aid. The US says April's rocket launch would violate that agreement, while Japan's defence minister said on Friday he had ordered the military to prepare to shoot down the rocket if it entered Japanese airspace. China, North Korea's closest regional, has also expressed concern that the launch could endanger regional stability. North Korea halts nuclear programme | Uranium enrichment, weapons testing and long-range missile launches to be stopped in return for US food aid.

North Korea has agreed to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches and to allow international inspectors to visit its Yongbyon nuclear complex in return for food aid from the United States. The announcement, made simultaneously by the US state department and North Korea's official news agency on Wednesday, paves the way for the possible resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with the Communist state.

It also marks a significant policy shift by North Korea's reclusive leadership after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong-il in December. "The DPRK, upon request by the US and with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere for the DPRK-US high-level talks, agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activity at Yongbyon and allow the IAEA to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment while productive dialogues continue," the official KCNA news agency said. North Korea is known formally as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

China, North Korea's only powerful ally, approved the announcement. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement posted on Thursday that China welcomed efforts by the two sides to improve relations and preserve peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. He reiterated China's willingness to participate in efforts to restart the six-party talks. 'Profound concerns' The state department was cautious in its response but said Washington was ready to finalise details of a proposed food aid package of 240,000 metric tonnes of nutritional assistance, and that more aid could be agreed based on continued need. Secret talks that led to the agreement were held at the North Korean embassy in Beijing [AFP]| "The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behaviour across a wide range of areas, but today's announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these," a state department statement said. A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said the development reflected "the close work Seoul and Washington have done to try to resolve the nuclear standoff," while the International Atomic Energy Agency called it "an important step forward".

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington DC, said that its linking "nutritional assistance" with political developments was contrary to standard US foreign policy. "[This move] is certainly going to come under the microscope in terms of US policy. The US has used [food aid] successfully as leverage and there is going to be some talk about that," she said. The announcement comes as the Obama administration steps up pressure on Iran over its atomic ambitions, which Western governments fear are aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

It followed talks between the US and North Korea last week in Beijing, the first such meeting since veteran leader Kim Jong-il's son, Kim Jong-un, succeeded his father as leader. Christopher Hill, the former chief US negotiator in the six-party talks, said it was an important step that Kim's son, Kim Jong-un, had made such a high-profile decision in the wake of his father's death. He said that the military, which is influenced by Chang Song-taek,  Kim Jong-il's powerful brother in law, had probably played a role in the agreement. I think the first order of business is to try to figure out the terms by which we provide the food aid," Hill said. "We're going to have to make sure the North Koreans have the aid and that we can monitor that the food aid goes to the right people. "  Six-party talks North Korea agreed to curtail its nuclear activities under an aid-for-denuclearisation agreement reached in September 2005 by six-party talks bringing together North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US.

Under the terms of that deal, the North agreed to abandon its nuclear programmes in exchange for economic and diplomatic incentives to be provided by the other parties involved in the negotiations. But the embryonic deal was never fully implemented. Instead, the North held two nuclear bomb tests, in 2006 and 2009, and later disclosed a uranium enrichment programme, giving it a second path to obtaining fissile material for bombs, in addition to its long-standing programme of producing plutonium.

The US, South Korea and their allies had been sceptical of North Korea's assertions that it stands ready to return to the six-party talks, and said they would insist on evidence of the country's willingness to denuclearise before any such talks could resume. World leaders: Nuclear terrorism a 'grave threat'

The US says any launch would violate UN resolutions and constitute a missile test. Iran's nuclear programme was also on the minds of the summit participants, with Mr Obama pledging to meet the leaders of Russia and China on the sidelines to work towards a resolution. 'Bad actors' At the meeting, world leaders discussed measures to fight the threat of nuclear terrorism, including the protection of nuclear materials and facilities, as well as the prevention of trafficking of nuclear materials. Continue reading the main story Analysis Jonathan Marcus BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

The communique describes nuclear terrorism as one of the most challenging threats to international security. But the responsibility to maintain security over nuclear materials lies firmly with states rather than international bodies. And any effort to try to establish or impose common international standards inevitably raises concerns in some quarters that the world's major powers are seeking to intrude into the nuclear affairs of other countries. That's why this communique reaffirms that measures to strengthen nuclear security will not hamper the rights of states to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The summit urges states to minimise the use of highly enriched uranium - one of the building blocks for a nuclear bomb. The summit highlights the threat from radioactive materials more generally. But again all the summit can do is urge states to take measures to secure these materials and work towards ratifying international conventions on nuclear security. It is hardly a resounding outcome from a gathering over-shadowed by the more immediate wrangling over North Korea's and Iran's nuclear activities.

A joint communique reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. "Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security," it said. "Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international co-operation given its potential global, political, economic, social and psychological consequences. " But it omitted a reference made in a draft communique last Thursday on the need for "concrete steps" towards a world without nuclear weapons, AFP news agency reports.

There are currently no binding international agreements on how to protect nuclear material stored peacefully inside its home country, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul. An amendment seeking to do that is still unratified after seven years. Addressing the summit, Mr Obama warned there were still "too many bad actors'' who were threatening to stockpile and use ''dangerous'' nuclear material. "It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and that's not an exaggeration, that's the reality that we face," he said. The security of the world depends on the actions that we take. " Mr Hu called for "an international environment conducive to boosting nuclear security" to be created and Mr Lee called for concrete action to tackle a threat that posed "a grave challenge" to peace. The summit was attended by almost 60 leaders from around the world. Rocket launch Meetings on Monday were overshadowed by North Korea's planned launch, scheduled to take place between 12 and 16 April. Pyongyang says it is intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung.

A KCNA report also described the ''weather satellite'' Pyongyang planned to launch as useful for ''the study of weather forecast needed for agriculture and other economic fields''. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking at the summit, called on Pyongyang to cancel the rocket launch, saying that it would violate UN Security Council resolutions. "As such, the international community strongly urges North Korea to exercise restraint and cancel the launch," he said. The resolutions were passed after a similar launch in April 2009.

Japan is particularly concerned as that rocket was launched over the country three years ago. The US and Chinese presidents met on Monday on the sidelines of the summit and agreed to co-ordinate their response to any "potential provocation" if Pyongyang went ahead with the launch. South Korea and the US say North Korea risks further sanctions and isolation if it does not cancel its plans. Seoul has also warned it will shoot down the rocket if it strays over South Korean territory. Which countries have nuclear weapons? There are an estimated 20,000 warheads in the world's combined stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Of these, almost 5,000 are considered operational and about 2,000 belonging to the US and Russia are believed to be ready for use at short notice. Although the exact number of nuclear weapons in each country's possession is top secret, the Federation of American Scientists has made best estimates about the size and composition of national nuclear weapon stockpiles based on publicly available information. Their sources include the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Countries and their nuclear weapons |

Continue reading the main story Related Stories * North Korea rocket plan condemned * N Korea agrees to nuclear freeze * North Korea country profile North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles which could one day strike the US. Pyongyang's programme has progressed over the last few decades from tactical artillery rockets in the 1960s and 70s to short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1980s and 90s. Systems capable of greater ranges are understood to be under research and development.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think-tank, some of North Korea's missiles also have the capability to carry nuclear warheads. However, the country is not yet thought to have developed such warheads. The country's missile programme has mainly been developed from the Scud. It first obtained tactical missiles from the Soviet Union as early as 1969, but its first Scuds reportedly came via Egypt in 1976. Egypt is believed to have supplied North Korea with missiles and designs in return for its support against Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

By 1984, North Korea was building its own Scuds, the Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6, as well as a medium-range missile, the Nodong. Its latest missile combines these technologies to give a long-range missile, the Taepodong. In 2006 and 2009 it test-fired a new missile called the Taepodong-2, which experts say could have a range of many thousands of miles. The missile failed to perform on both occasions. Short range missiles North Korea is believed to be in possession of a variety of short-range missiles, such as the KN-02, which can reach up to 120km and could target military installations in neighbouring South Korea.

The Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6, also known as Scud-B and C, have longer ranges of 300km and 500km respectively, according to the US Center for Nonproliferation Studies. These missiles can deliver conventional warheads, but may also have biological, chemical and nuclear capabilities. The Hwasong-5 and 6 have both been tested and deployed, defence experts believe, and would enable North Korea to strike any area in South Korea. Relations between the two Koreas are fraught and they remain, technically, in a state of war. The two countries never signed a peace treaty after an armistice ended their 1950-53 conflict.

They are separated by one of the world's most heavily fortified borders and both have strong military capabilities. Nodong missile North Korea went on to embark on a programme in the late 1980s to build a new missile, known as the Nodong, with a range of 1,000km. Its likely target is Japan. But, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, little is actually known about the development, production, and deployment of the Nodong. The institute believes the weapon is not accurate enough for effective use against military targets, such as US military bases in Japan.

A March 2006 report by the US Center for Non-proliferation Studies, concluded it had a "circular error probable" of 2km to 4km, meaning that half the missiles fired would fall outside a circle of that radius. Analysts therefore believe that should the Nodong be used as a weapon against Japan, it could lead to high levels of civilian casualties. Musudan missile The Musudan, also known as the Nodong-B or the Taepodong-X, is an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Its likely targets are Okinawa, Japan, and US bases in the Pacific.

Range estimates differ dramatically. Israeli intelligence believes they have a 2,500km range while the US Missile Defense Agency estimates they have a range of 3,200km; other sources put the upper limit at 4,000km. These differences are due in large part to the fact that the missile has never been tested publicly, according to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Its payload is also unknown. Taepodong-1 and 2 missiles (including the Unha space launcher) The Taepodong-1 - known as Paektusan-1 in North Korea - was the country's first multi-stage missile.

Instead of a normal ballistic missile payload, the missile carried a third stage that was meant to send a small satellite into low Earth orbit. The FAS believes that although the first two stages worked, the third stage did not function correctly and no satellite entered orbit. The federation also says it is possible the Taepodong-1 was always meant as a space launcher and was never intended to be an intermediate range military missile. The Taepodong-2 - or Paektusan-2 - is also a two to three-stage ballistic missile, but is a significant advance on the Taepodong-1. Its range has been estimated at anything between 5,000-15,000km.

The Center for Nonproliferation Studies puts the figure at a maximum estimated 6,000km. Taepodong-2 and its technology has been flight tested twice - in 2006 and 2009. It failed to perform on both occasions. In the early morning of 5 July 2006 (still 4 July in the US), it flew only 42 seconds before exploding - according to US sources. A three-stage space launcher version of the Taepodong-2 was then used in a failed attempt to send a satellite into space in April 2009. The launch was widely condemned by the US and South Korea, among others, as cover for a long-range missile test.

North Korea refers to the space launcher version of the Taepodong-2 as Unha - Korean for galaxy - and describes it as a "carrier rocket". Although space launches and missile launches follow slightly different trajectories and the rocket may be optimised for one purpose or the other, the basic technology used is the same. This includes the structure, engines, and fuel. If the Taepodong-2 were successfully launched and it reached its maximum estimated range, its increased power could put Australia and parts of the US, among other countries, within range. N

North Korea's nuclear ambitions have exacerbated its rigidly maintained isolation from the rest of the world. The country emerged in 1948 amid the chaos following the end of World War II. Its history is dominated by its Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, who shaped political affairs for almost half a century. After the Korean War, Kim Il-sung introduced the personal philosophy of Juche, or self-reliance, which became a guiding light for North Korea's development.

Decades of this rigid state-controlled system have led to stagnation and a leadership dependent on the cult of personality. Aid agencies have estimated that up to two million people have died since the mid-1990s because of acute food shortages caused by natural disasters and economic mismanagement. The country relies on foreign aid to feed millions of its people. The totalitarian state also stands accused of systematic human rights abuses. Reports of torture, public executions, slave labour, and forced abortions and infanticides in prison camps have emerged.

A US-based rights group has estimated that there are up to 200,000 political prisoners in North Korea. Pyongyang has accused successive South Korean governments of being US "puppets", but South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's visit in 2000 signalled a thaw in relations. Seoul's "sunshine policy" towards the North aimed to encourage change through dialogue and aid. Nuclear tensions This tentative reaching-out to the world was dealt a blow in 2002 by Pyongyang's decision to reactivate a nuclear reactor and to expel international inspectors.

In October 2006 North Korea said it had successfully tested a nuclear weapon, spreading alarm throughout the region. Since then, intensive diplomatic efforts have aimed to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions. After years of on-and-off talks, a deal was thrashed out in February 2007 under which Pyongyang agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor in return for aid and diplomatic concessions. But negotiations stalled as North Korea accused its negotiating partners - the US, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia - of failing to meet agreed obligations.

North Korean soldiers keep watch over the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Tensions between North Korea and the rest of the world increased steadily again from late 2008 onwards, especially after the new South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, ended his predecessor's "sunshine policy" of rapprochement with the North. In April 2009 North Korea walked out of international talks aimed at ending its nuclear activities. The following month the country carried out its second underground nuclear test and announced that it no longer considered itself bound by the terms of the 1953 truce that ended the war between the two Koreas.

Tensions reached a new high in spring 2010, when the South accused North Korea of sinking one of its warships, the Cheonan, and cut off all cross-border trade. Pyongyang denied the claims, and in turn severed all ties with Seoul. After the US imposed tough sanctions in August, the North began to make overtures again. Its then leader, Kim Jong-il, signalled a readiness to resume six-party nuclear talks during a visit to China, and indicated a willingness to accept Southern aid to cope with major flood damage.

Kim Jong-il's successor in December 2011, his third son Kim Jong-un, continued the dynastic policy of sending out mixed signals. He agreed to suspend long-range missile tests in order to receive US food aid in February 2012, only to challenge the US and the other frontline states almost immediately by announcing a forthcoming "rocket-launched satellite" for April, to mark Kim Il-Sung's birthday. In October 2012, Pyongyang responded to the unveiling of a new missile deal between Seoul and Washington by saying that it had missiles capable of hitting the US mainland.

North Korea maintains one of the world's largest standing armies and militarism pervades everyday life. But standards of training, discipline and equipment in the force are reported to be low. Q&A: North Korea nuclear programme Negotiations over North Korea's nuclear programme have been a stop-start process North Korea's nuclear programme remains a source of deep concern for the international community, amid reports from South Korea suggesting Pyongyang is planning a third nuclear test. The BBC looks at North Korea's nuclear ambitions and multi-national efforts to curtail them.

Has North Korea got the bomb? Not yet. In 2006 and again in 2009 North Korea announced that it had conducted successful nuclear weapons tests. Satellite data from P'unggye-yok, in a remote area in the east of the country, appeared to tally with claims that the experiments had been conducted underground. The North is believed to possess enough weapons-grade plutonium for at least six bombs - but experts say it has not yet solved the problem of making a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. Opinions vary on how close the regime is to completing this process of "miniaturisation".

American expert Siegfried Hecker told South Korea's Yonhap news agency late last year that a third nuclear test could be sufficient for them to master the technology. Mr Hecker is one of the few people to have seen the North's capabilities first-hand. In 2010, he was shown a uranium-enrichment facility with 1,000 centrifuges and said he was "stunned" by the sophistication of the plant. He said he saw no evidence that the fuel was for anything other than generating power, but added that it could be "readily converted to produce highly enriched uranium bomb fuel". What does the regime say about its programme?

Over the years Pyongyang has issued brash, contradictory and often inflammatory statements about its programme. After the 2009 nuclear test, an official communique stated that the test was "part of measures to enhance the Republic's self-defensive nuclear deterrent in all directions". And in a rare unguarded moment after the 2006 test, deputy foreign minister Kang Sok-ju told reporters: "Why would we abandon nuclear weapons? Are you saying we conducted a nuclear test in order to abandon them? " Yet Pyongyang also regularly proclaims that it is committed to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

It has frequently promised to give up part or all of its programme in return for aid. In February 2012, the regime promised to allow UN inspectors back into the country and to suspend uranium enrichment in return for US food aid. But shortly after that it launched a rocket in apparent defiance of UN resolutions banning missile tests, leaving that deal dead in the water. What has the international community done about the programme? Multiple rounds of negotiations have taken place between the North, the US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.

In September 2005, after more than two years of on-off talks, North Korea agreed a landmark deal to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for economic aid and political concessions. But implementing the deal proved extremely difficult and the talks stalled in April 2009 over the issue of whether North Korea was fully disclosing its nuclear assets. In July 2011, contact began again between the US and North Korea aimed at restarting the talks. Less than six months later, North Korea's long-time leader Kim Jong-il died. He was succeeded by his son, the young and inexperienced Kim Jong-un.

In February 2012 North Korea suddenly announced it had agreed to suspend nuclear activities. It also said it was placing a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. Its reward would be food aid from the US. But that deal has now been suspended following Pyongyang's 13 April 2012 rocket launch. What is the current state of the North's programme? The Yongbyon site is thought to be North Korea's main nuclear facility. The North has pledged several times to halt operations there and even destroyed the tower in 2008.

But both the US and South Korea have said in the past that they believed the North had additional sites linked to a uranium-enrichment programme. And Mr Hecker's revelations in 2010 of a hitherto undeclared plant suggest that clandestine nuclear work is continuing. In December 2010, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that the work being done at the site shown to Mr Hecker could not have been achieved if other related sites did not already exist. "We're very conscious of the fact that, in the recent revelations to American delegations, what they saw did not come out of thin air," he said. It certainly reflects work being done at at least one other site. " Why does the issue of North Korea's nuclear capability matter so much? The two Koreas remain technically at war, since no peace treaty was signed after the 1950-53 Korean conflict. Tension has been high since an international panel blamed North Korea for sinking a South Korean navy warship in March 2010, with the loss of 46 lives. Ties were further strained in November 2010, when North Korea shelled a border island, killing four South Koreans.

It added that North Korea had a sovereign right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and that "neither concession nor compromise should be allowed". Concerns about North Korea's atomic capability took on renewed urgency in November 2010 when the country disclosed a uranium enrichment facility that could give it a second route to manufacture nuclear weapons, in addition to its existing plutonium-based programme. North Korea has been building a light-water reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex since last year. Such a reactor is ostensibly for civilian energy purposes, but it would give the North a reason to enrich uranium.

At low levels, uranium can be used in power reactors, but at higher levels it can be used in nuclear bombs. Earlier this month, North Korean state media said "the day is near at hand" when the reactor will come into operation. Washington has concerns about reported progress on the reactor construction, saying it would violate UN security council resolutions. The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters on Wednesday at an international aid forum in the South Korean port city of Busan, did not address the North's statement on uranium.

She called the US-South Korean alliance strong and mentioned the recent first anniversary of North Korea's artillery attack on a frontline South Korean island that killed four. "Let me reaffirm that the United States stands with our ally, and we look to North Korea to take concrete steps that promote peace and stability and denuclearisation," Clinton said. Five countries, including the US, have been in on-again, off-again talks with North Korea to provide Pyongyang with aid in exchange for disarmament. North Korea pulled out of nuclear disarmament talks in early 2009 in protest at international condemnation of ts prohibited long-range rocket test. In recent months North Korea has repeatedly expressed its willingness to rejoin the talks, and tensions between the Koreas have eased. Diplomats from the Koreas and the UShave had separate nuclear talks, and cultural and religious visits by South Koreans to the North have resumed. South Korean and US officials, however, have demanded that Pyongyang halt its uranium-enrichment programme, freeze nuclear and missile tests and allow international inspectors back into the country before resuming negotiations.

The North Korean statement on Wednesday accused the U S and its allies of "groundlessly" taking issue with the North's peaceful nuclear activities. They are "deliberately laying a stumbling block in the way of settling the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula through dialogue and negotiations", the statement said. Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, said the North's statement appeared aimed at applying pressure on Washington and the international community to rejoin the nuclear disarmament talks quickly. "North Korea is expected to step up its rhetoric," he said.

History of Nuclear proliferation The impetus behind the NPT was concern for the safety of a world with many nuclear weapon states. It was recognized that the cold war deterrent relationship between just the United States and Soviet Union was fragile. Having more nuclear nuclear-weapon states would reduce security for all, multiplying the risks of miscalculation, accidents, unauthorized use of weapons, or from escalation in tensions, nuclear conflict. The NPT process was launched by Frank Aiken, Irish Minister for External Affairs, in 1958.

It was opened for signature in 1968, with Finland the first State to sign. Accession became nearly universal after the end of the Cold War and of South African apartheid. In 1992 China and France acceded to the NPT, the last of the five nuclear powers recognized by the treaty to do so. In 1995 the treaty was extended indefinitely. After Brazil acceded to the NPT in 1998 the only remaining non-nuclear-weapons state which had not signed was Cuba, which joined NPT (and the Treaty of Tlatelolco NWFZ) in 2002. Several NPT signatories have given up nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs.

South Africa undertook a nuclear weapons program, allegedly with the assistance of Israel in the 1970s, and may have conducted a nuclear test in the Indian Ocean in 1979, but has since renounced its nuclear program and signed the treaty in 1991 after destroying its small nuclear arsenal; after this, the remaining African countries signed the treaty. Several former Soviet Republics, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, destroyed or transferred to Russia the nuclear weapons they inherited from the Soviet Union.

The former Soviet republics joined NPT by 1994. Successor states from the breakups of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia also joined the treaty soon after their independence. Montenegro and East Timor were the last countries to sign the treaty on their independence in 2006 and 2003; the only other country to sign in the 21st century was Cuba in 2002. The three Micronesian countries in Compact of Free Association with the USA joined NPT in 1995, along with Vanuatu. Major South American countries Argentina, Chile, and Brazil joined in 1995 and 1998.

Nuclear weapons possess enormous destructive potential derived from nuclear fission or nuclear fusion reactions. Starting with scientific breakthroughs of the 1930s made by the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom during World War II in what was called the Manhattan Project to counter the assumed Nazi German atomic bomb project. In August 1945 two were dropped on Japan ending the Pacific War. An international team was dispatched to help work on the project.

The Soviet Union started development shortly thereafter with their own atomic bomb project, and not long after that both countries developed even more powerful fusion weapons called "hydrogen bombs. " There have been (at least) four major false alarms, the most recent in 1995, that resulted in the activation of either the US's or Russia's nuclear attack early warning protocols. [1] North Korea Main article: Ryanggang explosion On September 9, 2004 it was reported by South Korean media that there had been a large explosion at the Chinese/North Korean border.

In 1963 North Korea asked the Soviet Union for help in developing nuclear weapons, but was refused. However, instead the Soviet Union agreed to help North Korea develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, including the training of nuclear scientists. China later, after its nuclear tests, similarly rejected North Korean requests for help with developing nuclear weapons. [8] Tensions between North and South have run high on numerous occasions since 1953.

Army's Second Infantry Division on the Korean peninsula and the American military presence at the DMZ are publicly regarded by North Korea as an occupying army. In several areas, North Korean and American/South Korean forces operate in extreme proximity to the border, adding to tension. This tension has led to numerous clashes, including the Axe Murder Incident of 1976. In the early 1960s security concerns in the region and an apparent Soviet dismissal of these concerns hastened the DPRK's efforts to acquire the technology to produce nuclear weapons.

In the wake of the student-led April 19 movement in 1960 that overthrew the South Korean president Rhee Syngman and the May 16, 1961, military coup d'etat that brought General Park Chung-hee to power in the south, North Korea sought a mutual defense treaty with the Soviet Union and China. Soviet leaders reportedly did not even consider such a pact necessary, despite the military posture of the anti-communist Park regime, as long as the Soviets improved relations with the United States. 14] Perhaps the two most important factors in North Korea's attempts to obtain nuclear weapons and become militarily self-reliant were the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 and the prospect of a US–Japan–ROK alliance following the 1965 establishment of diplomatic relations between the ROK and Japan. Kim Il-sung reportedly did not trust that the Soviets would live up to the conditions of the mutual defense pact and guarantee North Korea's security since they betrayed Castro by withdrawing nuclear missiles in an effort to improve relations with the United States.

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