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North Korea poised for nuclear weapon test next year

August 15, 2011

theaustralian

NORTH Korea will conduct another nuclear weapons test within 12 months, according to senior US sources with access to Washington’s intelligence assessments.

This will bring much closer the day when North Korean nuclear weapons could threaten Australia. And it could trigger explosive reactions in northeast Asia.

The senior US sources believe the test could come sooner rather than later, although next year is regarded as the most likely.

“2012 is an auspicious year from the North Korean point of view,” said one senior American.

“It’s an election year in the US and an election year in in South Korea. And the North Koreans have publicly declared their desire to be a fully functional nuclear weapons state by 2012.”

For most of the past decade, sources say, North Korea has been systematically involved in nuclear proliferation.

At a meeting in 2003, senior North Koreans told representatives of the Bush administration that if the Americans did not agree to their demands for aid and diplomatic recognition, Pyongyang would share its nuclear technology with foreign nations.

Shortly after that, US sources believe, the North Koreans began selling nuclear technology to Syria and Burma.

In 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria that was being built by the North Koreans.

In 2009 and last year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a series of statements in which she expressed concerns about North Korea transferring nuclear material to Burma.

Senior US sources believe the illegal nuclear trade between North Korea and Burma continues to this day.

Senior sources believe Burma’s primitive technological base means it is unlikely to be able to produce nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.

However, the US administration is still extremely concerned about the nuclear trade between North Korea and Burma.

There is also believed to be an extensive trade, especially in missile technology, between North Korea and Iran.

North Korea is known to have two nuclear weapons programs, one involving plutonium and one highly enriched uranium.

A weapons test involving either would be extremely dangerous.

Once a nation can produce highly enriched uranium, it is relatively easy for it to keep increasing its weapons-grade stock annually.

North Korea is believed to have made progress on miniaturising nuclear weapons so they can be carried on long-range missiles. The Taepodong-2 missile, which the North Koreans tested unsuccessfully in 2006 but much more successfully in 2009, has the range to hit northern Australia, as well as US states such as Alaska and Hawaii.

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