North Korea Admits Secret Nuclear Weapons Program

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, November 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

North Korea Admits Secret Nuclear Weapons Program

Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


NORTH KOREA REVEALED that it has a clandestine nuclear weapons program during an early October meeting with a high-ranking U.S. official. The admission, which the United States made public October 16, indicates that Pyongyang has violated several key nonproliferation agreements, raising concern worldwide.

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Suk Ju admitted that Pyongyang has a uranium-enrichment program during October 3-5 meetings with a U.S. delegation after Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly confronted him with intelligence data proving the program's existence, Kelly stated during an October 19 press conference in Seoul.

The intelligence included evidence that Pyongyang was purchasing material for use in a gas centrifuge program that could enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, according to Bush administration officials. Various press reports have cited Russia, China, and Pakistan as potential suppliers. All three governments have denied any role.

The status of the program is unclear. Kelly said during the Seoul press conference that the enrichment program is "several years old," but Bush administration officials have reported to Congress and allies that North Korea's program still appears to be in its "early stages" and would take a relatively long time to produce enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear device. It is unclear how much time that is.

Kelly stated that North Korea's nuclear program violates "its commitments" under several international agreements: the Agreed Framework, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Pyongyang's safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The United States and North Korea concluded the Agreed Framework in October 1994, ending a standoff resulting from the IAEA's discovery that Pyongyang was diverting plutonium from its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors for use in nuclear weapons. The Agreed Framework requires North Korea to "freeze its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities," thereby ending its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

In exchange for shutting down its reactors, the United States agreed to provide North Korea with two proliferation-resistant light-water reactors (LWR), to create an international consortium called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to build them, and to provide shipments of heavy fuel oil in the interim. The first reactor was originally scheduled to be completed by 2003, but construction has fallen behind schedule, and the reactor is not expected to be finished before 2008, barring further delays.

The Agreed Framework requires North Korea to accept full IAEA safeguards when "a significant portion of the LWR project is completed"-a milestone that is approximately three years away. Under those safeguards, Pyongyang must declare the existence of any nuclear facilities and allow the IAEA to inspect them.

The Agreed Framework does not specifically mention uranium enrichment, a different method of obtaining fissile material for nuclear weapons, but it does require North Korea to remain a party to the NPT, under which non-nuclear-weapon states agree "not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." The framework also says that North Korea "will consistently take steps to implement" the 1992 Joint Declaration, which states that "South and North Korea shall not possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities."

The Agreed Framework has been controversial, with some Republicans, including President George W. Bush, questioning whether the United States can trust North Korea. The Bush administration refused last March to certify that North Korea was fully complying with the agreement, a congressionally mandated condition for KEDO to receive U.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

North Korea Admits Secret Nuclear Weapons Program


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?