Renewed nuke sale fear after recent NKorea test

Analysts worry that NKorean nuke test signals willingness to sell atomic material, expertise

Associated Press
Renewed nuke sale fear after recent NKorea test
.

View photo

A North Korean soldier looks at the southern side through a pair of binoculars at the border village of the Panmunjom (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The United States is flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers on training missions over South Korea to highlight Washington's commitment to defend an ally amid rising tensions with North Korea, Pentagon officials said Monday.(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea's nuclear test last month wasn't just a show of defiance and national pride; it also is advertising. The target audience, analysts say, is anyone in the world looking to buy nuclear material.

Though Pyongyang has threatened to launch nuclear strikes on the U.S., the most immediate threat posed by its nuclear technology may be North Korea's willingness to sell it to nations that Washington sees as sponsors of terrorism. The fear of such sales was highlighted this week, when Japan confirmed that cargo seized last year and believed to be from North Korea contained material that could be used to make nuclear centrifuges, which are crucial to enriching uranium into bomb fuel.

The dangerous message North Korea is sending, according to Graham Allison, a nuclear expert at the Harvard Kennedy School: "Nukes are for sale."

North Korea launched a long-range rocket in December, which the U.N. called a cover for a banned test of ballistic missile technology. On Feb. 12, it conducted its third underground nuclear test, which got Pyongyang new U.N. sanctions.

Outside nuclear specialists believe North Korea has enough nuclear material for several crude bombs, but they have yet to see proof that Pyongyang can build a warhead small enough to mount on a missile. The North, however, may be able to help other countries develop nuclear expertise right now, as it is believed to have done in the past.

"There's a growing technical capability and confidence to sell weapons and technology abroad, without fear of reprisal, and that lack of fear comes from (their) growing nuclear capabilities," Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official, said at a recent nuclear conference in Seoul.

Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons because of what it calls a hostile U.S. policy aimed at invading the North. An unidentified spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry warned Wednesday of military strikes if the United States repeats recent test flights in South Korea of the nuclear-capable B-52 bomber.

The U.S., South Korea and others say North Korean brinksmanship meant to win aid and other concessions is the real motive. Even China, North Korea's most important ally, opposes its neighbor's nuclear ambitions.

North Korean nuclear sales earn the impoverished country money that can be pumped back into weapons development, analyst Shin Beomchul at the South Korean-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul said Tuesday.

Its growing capabilities could make North Korea more attractive to buyers, especially if it is determined that highly enriched uranium was used in last month's test.

Proliferation worries have ramped up since late 2010, when North Korea unveiled a long-suspected uranium enrichment operation. North Korea's first two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, were suspected to be fueled by its limited plutonium stockpile. A crude uranium bomb is easier to produce than one made with plutonium, and uranium production is easier to conceal.

Little is known about North Korea's uranium program, but Washington and others are keenly interested in whether it is producing highly enriched uranium for bombs and whether uranium was used in the third test — two things suspected, but not yet confirmed, by outsiders.

A nuclear test using highly enriched uranium "would announce to the world — including potential buyers — that North Korea is now operating a new, undiscovered production line for weapons-usable material," Allison, the Harvard nuclear specialist, wrote in a New York Times op-ed after the North's test.

U.S. officials have hinted that retaliation would follow should Washington discover North Korean cooperation behind any atomic attack on an American city or U.S. ally.

Pyongyang's nuclear transfers and any use of weapons of mass destruction "would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies, and we will hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences," President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said last week.

U.S. officials have long tracked North Korean dealings in nuclear and weapons technology. Sanctions have cut down on missile sales, but Iran and Syria, two countries seen by Washington as rogue actors, may continue to be customers.

In November, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization proposed observing North Korea's nuclear test, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported, citing an unidentified Western diplomatic source privy to Pyongyang-Tehran ties.

North Korea is believed to have helped Syria build what senior U.S. intelligence officials called a secret nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium. In 2007, Israeli jets bombed the structure in a remote Syrian desert.

Japan's government said Monday that it has determined that a shipment believed to have originated in North Korea violated U.N. sanctions because it contained material that could be used to make nuclear centrifuges.

The shipment of an aluminum alloy was seized from a Singaporean-flagged ship transiting Tokyo last August. The ship was reportedly bound for Myanmar from the Chinese port of Dalian, although Japanese government officials didn't confirm Myanmar as the destination.

Japan's chief government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said officials searched the ship because they believed it carried North Korean cargo. News reports said the United States tipped off Japan. Suga said officials had determined in subsequent analyses that the rods were made of an alloy that suggests they were intended for use in a nuclear centrifuge.

Suga said the seizure was the first to be conducted under a law Japan passed in 2010 to clamp down on the movement of materials that could be used for nuclear weapons development being brought into, or exported from, North Korea.

The murkiness of the clandestine nuclear trade is a major worry. It's difficult to know how a buyer would use atomic material or know-how, or where material could end up after being sold.

"The terrorist threat of an improvised nuclear device delivered anonymously and unconventionally by a boat or a truck across our long and unprotected borders is one against which we have no certain deterrent or defensive response," Robert Gallucci, a former senior U.S. diplomat who negotiated a U.S.-North Korea nuclear deal used to defuse a nuclear crisis in the 1990s, said late last month in Seoul.

"For Americans, this threat is far greater than the unlikely threat that may someday be posed by North Korean nuclear weapons delivered by a ballistic missile," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Eric Talmadge in Tokyo and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this report. Follow Foster Klug on Twitter at twitter.com/APKlug

Rates

View Comments (33)

Recommended for You

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau. Stephen Hung's $20 million purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel in…

    Associated Press
  • Our Best-Ever Value Plan for Your Business

    New prices on our Mobile Share Value Plans on the nation's most reliable 4G LTE network.

    AdChoicesAT&T® Small BusinessSponsored
  • Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia

    Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia MOSCOW (AP) — The arrest of a Russian telecoms and oil tycoon has sent shock waves through the country's business community, with some fearing a return to the dark days of a decade ago, when the Kremlin asserted its power by imprisoning the country's…

    Associated Press
  • Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks

    Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks While investors gear up for Alibaba Group 's (BABA) hotly anticipated initial public offering, don't forget about other Chinese stocks that are worth keeping an eye on. Today's Young Guns Screen of

    Investor's Business Daily
  • As Fed takes baby steps, Cramer's trick for profit

    In turn, Cramer says making money in the market, involves looking at the environment through the lens of the Fed. "The trick is to remember that they speak for the common person," Cramer said. "The Fed wants the common person to make money." With that backdrop always in mind, Cramer says it becomes…

    CNBC
  • Play

    Citi, Bank of America Offer Discounted Mortgages

    Citigroup and Bank of America will offer mortgages at discounted interest rates to help borrowers with low incomes or subprime credit. AnnaMaria Andriotis joins MoneyBeat. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live
  • Costco Stores in Canada to Stop Taking American Express

    “The credit card relationship between American Express and Costco Wholesale Canada will not be renewed when it expires” on Dec. 31, the company said today in an e-mail to Canadian customers. The message was attributed to Lorelle Gilpin, vice president of marketing and membership for Costco…

    Bloomberg
  • "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savings

    "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savingsBy the time she hit her late 40s, Toni Eugenia wasn’t sure she would ever be able to retire. Eugenia, 56, a pharmacy technician who lived in Houston, was nearly $200,000 in debt and

    Yahoo Finance
  • Accomplish your career goals

    At Capella University, you can learn the skills you need to succeed. Why wait another day? Get started today.

    AdChoicesCapella UniversitySponsored
  • CNBC Anchor Calls Out Fed-Hater Bill Fleckenstein In Startling Shouting Match

    CNBC Bill Fleckenstein of Fleckenstein Capital appeared on CNBC's Futures Now program on Tuesday. Futures Now host Jackie DeAngelis came out swinging, asking Fleckenstein right at the top if he was willing to admit that he had misunderstood monetary policy. Sounding taken aback, Fleckenstein…

    Business Insider
  • Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court

    Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors seeking to put the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies in prison for hiding millions in Swiss bank accounts told appellate court judges Wednesday that the toymaker's sentence of probation threatens to erode the…

    Associated Press
  • Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 : report

    The company plans to unveil the sixth generation of its iPad and the third edition of the iPad mini, as well as its operating system OS X Yosemite, which has undergone a complete visual overhaul, the Internet news website said. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment. The iPad is…

    Reuters
  • Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks

    Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks Gilead Sciences (GILD) shares are backsliding Wednesday on news that the patient drop-out rate for hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is quadruple that of clinical trials. In addition, the biotech's Phase 2 study results

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Margaritaville casino owners seek bankruptcy

    The owner of Biloxi's Margaritaville casino has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, only hours before a hearing where the landlord aimed to seize the property. The filing by MVB Holding LLC in U.S. Don Dornan, a lawyer for landlord Clay Point LLC, said the company had planned to ask…

    Associated Press
  • Here's What Mark Cuban Wishes He Knew About Money In His 20s

    Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban is generous with his advice. When we asked him what he wishes he'd known about money in his 20s, he said:

    Business Insider
  • 1 Tip To Lose Belly Fat

    It's Hollywood's Hottest Diet And Gets Rid Of Stubborn Fat Areas Like Nothing Else.

    AdChoicesagoodcooksSponsored
  • Embraer to sell 50 E-175 jets to Republic in $2.1 billion deal

    Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's third largest commercial planemaker, said on Wednesday it booked a firm order from U.S. The deal, which will be included in Embraer's order book for the third quarter, is valued at $2.1 billion, the planemaker said in a securities filing. The planes will be operated…

    Reuters
  • SHOE COMPANY: Our CEO Just Disappeared And Most Of The Money Is Gone

    "and like that: he's gone." This is an actual headline from a company press release: "CEO and COO disappeared, most of the company's cash missing." (Via FastFT) In a statement, German-based shoe company Ultrasonic said its CFO,  Chi Kwong Clifford Chan, has been unable to reach the company's CEO,…

    Business Insider
  • Billionaire Investor Says Chinese People Work Harder And Western Companies Could Face Deep Trouble After Alibaba IPO

    Michael Moritz, the chairman of VC firm Sequoia Capital, is a huge fan of Chinese internet companies and reiterated his enthusiasm for the Chinese market in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. The billionaire investor described the Alibaba IPO as a “major landmark event” that is as…

    Business Insider
  • Don't buy Alibaba stock: 'Dean of Valuation'

    Investors should steer clear of Alibaba , valuation expert Aswath Damodaran said Wednesday. On CNBC's " Fast Money ," Damodaran, a professor of finance at New York University's Stern School of Business, noted that he was looking at Alibaba stock from the perspective of a long-term investor, not a…

    CNBC
  • Play

    What the Fed Meeting Means for Bonds

    Janet Yellen & Co. are expected to hint at their timetable for raising interest rates. Here's how investors should prepare ahead of the meeting.

    WSJ Live
  • Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More

    Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More Stocks were firm on Wednesday morning ahead of the FOMC meeting outcome. Tuesday’s rally may have sparked higher interest again, and investors are looking for bargains

    24/7 Wall St.
  • Top 3 Reasons To Open A Fidelity 529 Account

    1. Tax advantages. 2. Flexible options for your savings. 3. Any child can benefit. Start saving for college with the UNIQUE College Investing Plan.

    AdChoicesFidelity InvestmentsSponsored
  • 6 Things Debt Collectors Wish You Knew

    The work debt collectors do is not popular, and has become increasingly derided by those who don’t like what we do or simply don’t know the facts about debt collection. Too often, debt collection is painted with a broad brush to create a portrait that isn’t accurate, and doesn’t properly educate…

    Credit.com