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North Korea Could Make Nuclear Warhead For Missile Delivery

The North Korean medium-range Nodong missile, seen here dressed in Pakistani Ghauri missile colours. North Korea could loadthis missile with a crude nuclear warhead.

Boeing Delivers 500th Minuteman III Missile Guidance Set
St Louis MO (SPX) Feb 17 - Boeing delivered the 500th Minuteman III Guidance Replacement Program (GRP) Missile Guidance Set (MGS) to the U.S. Air Force and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) prime contractor Northrop Grumman Mission Systems during a Dec. 15, 2006, ceremony at Boeing's Guidance Repair Center in Heath, Ohio. "Our Minuteman team has delivered on our commitments on time or ahead of our contract schedule for the past four years," said Charles Dutch, Boeing GRP director. "We expect to meet our customer's requirements for these guidance systems through early 2009." The Guidance Replacement Program is one element of the U.S. Air Force's ICBM Prime Integration team. The program modernizes the nation's Minuteman III guidance system electronics, including hardware and software updates. The program extends the service life of the Minuteman III MGS through 2020. Boeing has been the only U.S. Air Force ICBM guidance system integration contractor for more than 40 years on the Minuteman I-II-III, Peacekeeper, Small ICBM and GRP. In addition to the Guidance Replacement Program, Boeing is a member of the ICBM Prime Integration team and hosts ICBM repair activities at its Guidance Repair Center. Boeing's integrated product team spans several locations, including El Paso, Texas; Heath, Ohio; Mesa, Ariz.; Ogden, Utah; Anaheim, Calif., and Honeywell in Clearwater, Fla.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Feb 21, 2007
North Korea is capable of arming its medium-range Nodong missile with a crude nuclear warhead, two US experts said in a report released Wednesday. The report by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) also estimates that the communist state has separated enough plutonium to build about five to 12 nuclear weapons.

It says the North's strategy, given the presumed limits of its arsenal, is based on deterring any attack. "In such a case, the detonation of nuclear weapons as 'warning shots' in a crisis might result."

In the early stage of a crisis, the ISIS report says, a nuclear test could be staged to prevent further escalation. "If that failed to stop the crisis, it may detonate a warhead over the sea as a further demonstration."

Should war break out, "North Korea would be expected to use its nuclear weapons against military targets and population centres in South Korea or Japan."

The North, which agreed in principle last week to disable its nuclear facilities, has been working to develop a nuclear warhead for the Nodong since at least 1994, say the report's authors, ISIS chief David Albright and Paul Brannan.

It is also suspected to have obtained warhead designs from Pakistan's rogue nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

"North Korea is judged capable of putting a crude (nuclear) warhead on a Nodong missile," says the report, which follows a visit by former UN nuclear inspector Albright and former State Department official Joel Wit to Pyongyang early this month.

The Nodong, a variant of the Soviet Scud with a potential range of 1,000-1,300 km (625-800 miles), could reach parts of Japan. But the report says the warhead may not be reliable and may have a relatively low yield.

It estimates that North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test last October, has a plutonium stockpile of 46-64 kilograms (101-141 pounds) of which 28-50 kilograms are estimated to be in separated form and usable in weapons.

The vast majority of the separated plutonium, it says, has been produced since a 1994 deal with the United States, which shut down the Yongbyon plutonium-producing reactor, collapsed in late 2002.

The 1994 Agreed Framework broke down when the US accused the North of cheating on it by running a secret highly enriched uranium programme, something the North has publicly denied.

Under the new deal reached last week during six-nation talks in Beijing, the North agreed to disable its nuclear facilities in exchange for energy aid.

As a first step it will shut down and seal Yongbyon within 60 days, re-admit UN nuclear inspectors and receive 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid in return.

Action to permanently disable the nuclear facilities would be rewarded with up to 950,000 tons of heavy oil or other aid.

Critics say the deal does not immediately address either the North's existing nuclear weapons and plutonium stockpile or its suspected uranium-based programme. US Vice President Dick Cheney told Japanese leaders during a visit Wednesday the Beijing pact is a "good first step."

Critics of the Bush administration claim its policies led to the breakdown of the 1994 accord, allowing the North to resume plutonium production.

The Beijing agreement "sounds like the Bush administration has put things back to where they were at the end of the Clinton administration -- only now the North Koreans have tested a nuclear weapon and have enough plutonium for seven to 10 nuclear bombs," said Robert Einhorn, a US weapons expert, recently.

earlier related report
SKorea says deal covers all NKorea nuke programmes
Seoul (AFP) Feb 21 - South Korea's foreign minister refused Wednesday to comment on whether North Korea has a secret uranium-based nuclear programme, but said it must disable all programmes under last week's multinational deal. "It is not appropriate to publicly comment on which stage such a North Korean programme is at," Song Min-Soon said in response to a question on whether he believed Pyongyang had a uranium-based project.

Seoul's intelligence chief Tuesday reportedly told a parliamentary committee he believed the North had a highly enriched uranium programme (HEU), despite its denials.

The United States also accuses the North of running such a project in addition to its acknowledged plutonium bomb-making facilities.

Song recalled that six-nation negotiations had already produced a deal in 2005 on dismantling all the communist state's nuclear programmes.

"It is an unchanged principle that all of its nuclear programmes, whether they are (based on) plutonium or uranium, should be dismantled," he said.

The six-nation agreement reached last week in Beijing has been criticised for not directly addressing North Korea's existing atomic bombs, or its suspected HEU programme.

But Song stressed last week's deal was an initial step under which the North, which staged its first nuclear test last October, should start to make itself free of atomic weapons.

Unification Minister Lee Jae-Joung said Wednesday there was no clear evidence to support reports that North Korea had a uranium enrichment programme.

"We have no information on whether North Korea is carrying out a concrete plan to run a uranium enrichment programme," Lee told a parliamentary committee, according to Yonhap news agency.

But a high-ranking North Korean defector said separately that Pyongyang has had a uranium enrichment programme to make bombs for the past decade.

Hwang Jang-Yop, a former secretary of the North's ruling Workers Party, defected in 1997 -- the highest-ranking North Korean official ever to do so. He lives under police guard in South Korea.

Freedom North Korea Broadcast, an Internet-based radio for defectors, quoted his remarks made February 19 on its website. Hwang could not be reached for comment.

Officials in charge of the weapons programme "had frequently asked me to find a way as secretary of international affairs to import more plutonium, but then they said that it was no longer necessary," Hwang was quoted as saying.

"They said they found out how to make (nuclear weapons) with Uranium-235. That was in 1996. Ten years have passed. They must possess more than enough to manufacture (nuclear weapons) there. They are denying it."

Hwang has been a staunch critic of North Korea's regime since escaping while on a visit to Beijing. Several analysts believe the North's HEU regime is rudimentary and some doubt it exists.

As a first step under the February 13 deal, the North will shut down and seal its Yongbyon plutonium-producing reactor within 60 days, admit UN nuclear inspectors and receive 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent assistance in return.

Action to permanently disable the nuclear facilities would be rewarded with up to 950,000 tons of heavy oil or other aid.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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