Paul KerrAnother North Korea Intelligence Summary

I always appreciate it when Jeffrey plugs my scribbling, but I will add something further. This is a more recent article about North Korea’s nuclear programs.

The section on the enrichment program reads:

North Korea denies U.S. charges that it has a gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Little is known about this program, including the location of its related facilities. Clandestine centrifuge facilities are widely believed to be more difficult to detect than plutonium-based nuclear programs.

According to U.S. estimates, North Korea’s uranium-enrichment program appears to be significantly less advanced than its plutonium-based program. North Korea is believed to have procured components for a gas-centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment facility, but there is no publicly available evidence that it has integrated these components into a functioning system capable of producing uranium.

Public CIA assessments about the program have changed significantly during the past year. The CIA said in November 2002 that North Korea was “constructing a centrifuge facility” capable of producing “two or more nuclear weapons per year,” perhaps as soon as “mid-decade.” Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly told Congress in March 2003 that the facility could start producing fissile material in “months and not years.”

Subsequent CIA reports have been increasingly vague. For example, a November report covering the last half of 2002 says only that North Korea “had begun acquiring material and equipment for a centrifuge facility,” with the apparent “goal” of building a plant. Another November report covering the first half of 2003 says nothing about the program.