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Even if Kim Jong-un promises to allow nuclear inspections – “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” is really not possible

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides guidance on a nuclear weapons program in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 3, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS

Why Donald Trump should stay wary about North Korea’s nuclear plans – even if Kim Jong-un promises to allow inspections
Experts say that the level of know-how and stock of easily concealed materials would make it easy for Pyongyang to start making bombs again,
SCMP,  Liu Zhenzhen.liu@scmp.com, 08 June, 2018,  Experts believe that North Korea has the capability and knowledge to hide hundreds of kilograms of nuclear material from inspectors and could quickly resume its bomb-making programme, even if it agrees to start the denuclearisation process at next week’s summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

A recent report by a team led by Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the America’s Los Alamos weapons laboratory, calculated that at the end of last year North Korea’s inventory contained between 250 and 500kg (550-1,000lb) of highly enriched uranium-235 (HEU) and 20 to 40kg of plutonium-239 (Pu-239), the two most important materials for making a bomb.

A single atomic bomb needs about 4-10kg of weapons-grade plutonium, or about 15kg of HEU. With additional fusion materials that are much easier to produce, more powerful hydrogen bombs can be assembled.

“With the material, the knowledge, the experienced scientists, North Korea will be able to make the weapons again,” said an expert with Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), the country’s nuclear weapons research and manufacturing institution, speaking on condition of anonymity. “A system of knowledge is difficult to eliminate.”

Pyongyang’s nuclear programme will be a primary topic of discussion when the US president and the North Korean leader meet in Singapore on Tuesday. Although they may disagree on what “denuclearisation” actually means, from the US perspective, it would likely require the inspection and surrender of all the fissile materials.

However, no one knows exactly how much material North Korea holds, in particular how much HEU, and enrichment facilities are easy to conceal.

“Enrichment of uranium is one capability that can be most easily hidden and made almost impossible to inspect and verify,” said Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based fellow in the nuclear policy programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He said the credibility of North Korea’s “denuclearisation” could be built only on mutual trust and confidence because 100 per cent transparency was impossible.

“Centrifuges can be built underground and covered up in unknown corners of the country,” he said.

…….. The US has said it wants the “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, which will require inspections of all aspects of its nuclear programme, ranging from production facilities to test sites……..http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2149985/why-donald-trump-should-stay-wary-about-north-koreas

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June 9, 2018 - Posted by | North Korea, politics international

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