Satellite imagery shows viewing stand for North Korean nuclear test

Sunday, May 8, 2005

According to American and foreign officials, White House and Pentagon officials are closely monitoring spy satellite imagery of North Korea, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Preparations seem to be made for testing a nuclear weapon, including the construction of a reviewing stand, most likely for scientists or North Korean officials. It would be the first test of a nuclear weapon by North Korea.

United States officials warned that the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il are unknown, and the constructions may turn out to be a show. The extent of North Korea's nuclear capabilities are still unknown. According to the U.S. government agency CIA, North Korea may have one or two primitive nuclear bombs. According to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, North Korea may possess the material and equipment to manufacture up to six nuclear warheads. North Korea's neighbours, however, have been thorougly briefed on the implications of a nuclear weapons test by North Korea.

North Korea is among the 188 countries to have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, although they have later withdrawn again. This treaty states that only the United States, Russia, the People's Republic of China, France, and the United Kingdom are allowed to have nuclear weapons. Kim Duk Hong, one of the regime's most senior defectors, says that North Korea resumed the development of its nuclear weapon program as soon as the treaty was signed. Kim also stated that North Korea gained much of its expertise from Pakistan, and that only the death of Kim Jong Il and the destruction of his regime will stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Korean Peninsula

In October 2002, U.S. sources stated that during a visit by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, North Korea admitted to running a clandestine nuclear weapons program. This was widely seen as a violation of both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the 1994 U.S.-North Korea nuclear pact, which were signed during the Clinton administration. North Korean officials stated that the reactivation of their weapon of mass destruction program was in response to "imperialist threats" (presumably by the United States). The United States proceeded to stop shipments of fuel oil under the Agreed Framework.

In late December 2002 North Korea drove United Nations weapons inspectors out of the country, announcing plans to reactivate a dormant nuclear fuel processing laboratory and power plant north of Pyongyang, if the United States did not agree to a non invasion pact. This nuclear reactor is thought by U.S. officials to be the source for plutonium for two previously produced atomic bombs.