Analysis Links N. Korea to Libyan Nuclear Goods

Article excerpt


U.S. intelligence analysis of nuclear weapons-related goods obtained from Libya has linked it to North Korea, a sign the communist regime's weapons program is more advanced than previously suspected.

An Energy Department assessment of several cannisters obtained from Libya last year showed traces of radioactive material that originated in Yongbyon, the North Korean nuclear facility, said Bush administration officials familiar with the intelligence analysis.

Additionally, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that Libya likely was supplied with a large quantity of uranium hexafluoride that was processed in North Korea and exported to the North African state.

Uranium hexafluoride is developed from uranium ore and is a key source of highly enriched uranium that is produced in centrifuges as fuel for nuclear bombs.

"This shows that a further involvement of the A.Q. Khan network and the further involvement in North Korea, not just in getting their own material, but selling critical components and supplies to other places, like Libya," a senior official said.

Until last year, A.Q. Khan headed a clandestine network of suppliers to rogue nuclear states whose clients included Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Two officials said the source of the uranium hexafluoride is not 100 percent confirmed as being North Korea.

However, the radioactive trace material found on the cannisters has been confirmed as originating from the North Korean facility, the officials said. That assessment was based on matching the material with North Korean samples obtained by international inspectors.

The new information on the Libya-North Korea connection was presented to the governments of China, South Korea and Japan earlier this week during a visit to the region by Michael J. Green, the White House National Security Council (NSC) Asia affairs specialist.

Mr. Green and William Tobey, an NSC arms proliferation specialist, presented the intelligence in an effort to convince China and South Korea of the urgency of negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program.

The administration officials said they are worried that disclosing the sensitive intelligence to China and South Korea will lead to the data being passed secretly to North Korea. …