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North Korea might be increasing the “size and sophistication,” of its nuclear arsenal, according to a report published on 38 North.The report, authored by David Albright and Christina Walrond of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), evaluated three different explanations as to why North Korea might be upping its nuclear capabilities.
The first explanation says that North Korea is creating nuclear reactors called “Civil Light Water Reactor” which it produces low-enriched uranium and does not produce plutonium for weapons.
The second explanation says that North Korea is using its plutonium in a “Militarized Light Water Reactor,” which would be optimal for making weapon-grade plutonium.
The final explanation is that North Korea is dedicating its centrifuge capacity to making weapon-grade uranium, which would also strengthen its nuclear arsenal.
All of these projections “show an increase in North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal.”
Because there are “significant uncertainties” regarding how to analyse how much weapon-grade uranium and plutonium the hermit state has, the report says it is difficult to come to a formative conclusion. But “regardless of these uncertainties, the current North Korean stocks of nuclear weapons may be larger than commonly believed.”
The report comes at a crucial time. According to Albright and Walrond, the escalation in the production of nuclear material coincides with the failure of a February 29 reciprocal arrangement between the United States and North Korea aimed at fostering nuclear deterrent.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of defence Leon Panetta met with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon for security discussions focused on North Korea.
Panetta highlighted that the subsequent shift of U.S. focus toward Asia was in part geared towards pressuring North Korea.
“The bottom line, ” he told reporters, “is we still don’t know whether or not he will simply follow in the steps of his father or whether he represents a different kind of leadership for the future.”
Read the full report on ISIS here
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