Assessing North Korea

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By Carol A. Clark

The nuclear scientist who helped thaw relations with Russian nuclear laboratories at the end of the Cold War has been deeply involved in North Korea lately. Wednesday evening, Siegfried Hecker described the reclusive country’s nuclear program history, current situation and future expectations to a full house at Graves Hall in the United Church. During his presentation – titled “How did North Korea Get Nuclear Weapons and Will it Give Them Up?” – Hecker said bringing North Korea back into the fold is a substantial move toward shoring up what many say is a serious threat to the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).“It has the raw materials, it has the facilities, and it has the people for things nuclear,” he said. “North Korea has the bomb. They have weapons grade plutonium. We estimate they have 40-50 kilograms – sufficient to make six to eight bombs.”North Korea has conducted one nuclear test with “limited success” and most likely has a few simple bombs, Hecker said, adding they are unlikely to have the confidence to mount them on missiles.Hecker first visited North Korea in January 2004. His assessment is that the country’s uranium enrichment program never amounted to much.

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