US expert saw hundreds of centrifuges in North Korea

A US nuclear scientist saw hundreds of centrifuges in North Korea this month, sources familiar with the matter said on Saturday, buttressing the case that Pyongyang has a uranium enrichment program that would give it a second way to obtain fissile material for bombs.

One source said the expert, Stanford University’s Siegfried Hecker, was told by North Korean officials they had 2 000 centrifuges operating but the US team that visited the country was unable to verify that.

“But it certainly looked like an operating facility [to the US team],” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

North Korea has said it wants to return to stalled aid-for-disarmament talks but both Seoul and Washington have dismissed its pledges to denuclearise as insincere.

“Presumably, [Pyongyang’s nuclear programme has] taken a new turn. And presumably it’s taken the turn that we were hoping ... it wouldn’t take and we were trying to forestall,” the same source said.

Even though it has exploded nuclear devices, North Korea has not shown it has a working nuclear bomb.

Stephen Bosworth, a US envoy responsible for policy toward North Korea, will visit Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing next week for consultations on North Korean issues, the State Department said on Saturday.
- Reuters

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