North.Korea must come clean on uranium project: Seoul
( Reuters ) - South Korea's chief nuclear envoy on Monday called on North Korea to come clean about its suspected program to enrich uranium for weapons, which has been a sticking point in an international disarmament deal.
North Korea struck an agreement with regional powers to give a complete list of its nuclear activities by the end of this year and to start dismantling its ageing nuclear facility that produces arms-grade plutonium.
But while acknowledging its plutonium-based weapons program, North Korea has persistently denied U.S. allegations that it had engaged in inappropriate uranium-based activities.
South Korean envoy Chun Yung-woo called on North Korea to "have the courage to tell the truth (about the uranium enrichment program)," a Foreign Ministry official quoted him as saying.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that U.S. scientists had found traces of enriched uranium on smelted aluminum tubing from North Korea, which appears to contradict its denials of a secret uranium-based nuclear program.
The North may miss the deadline for declaring its nuclear activities due to the uranium enrichment issue, U.S. and South Korean government officials have said.
North Korea has started to disable its Soviet-era reactor, a plant that produces nuclear fuel and another that turns spent fuel into plutonium as required in the disarmament-for-aid deal it struck with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, government officials have said.
U.S. officials said they believe North Korea has produced about 50 kg ( 110 lb) of plutonium. According to conservative estimates from proliferation experts, that would be enough for six to eight nuclear bombs.
If the energy-starved North abides by the disarmament deal, it can receive 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid and end its international ostracism.