Paul KerrMore on North Korea HEU

Larry Niksch (right) from CRS recently published an interesting summary of the relevant intel in the Chosun Ilbo.

Niksch mentions a pair of 1993 Russian intel reports that point toward a North Korean HEU program:

There are also assessments from non-U.S. sources simultaneous with or earlier than those of the Clinton Administration. Of special importance are the Russian intelligence assessments of the 1993. Reports in two Japanese journals and the Russian newspaper, Izvestia, quoted from two Russian intelligence documents, an October 1993 Defense Ministry report entitled “The Russian Federation’s Military Policy in the Asia and Pacific Region Under the New Military-Political Conditions” and a 1993 report of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service on “Weapons of Mass Destruction in the World.” Both Russian assessments asserted that North Korea had an active uranium enrichment program.

I am curious as to whether anyone has a copy of the Russian reports . I haven’t been able to find them, but maybe someone with sweeter skills can.

Niksch also correctly points out that South Korean intel sources have been cited in the ROK press for a while now on this issue. Those have never quite been solid enough for ACT to publish, but Seoul clearly seems to think that North Korea has some sort of HEU effort.

There is, however, still no good evidence that the program is, or was, as advanced as North Korea’s plutonium progam.

As an aside, when I was doing the reporting for the article I wrote last month about this subject, I couldn’t find anyone who would really defend the intelligence. Now, there are obviously people I missed who likely would defend it, but it’s interesting that no one else reporting on the matter is having much better luck.

Update: The sweet skills are on display in the comments section.


  1. Pavel Podvig (History)

    Here is the 1993 SVR report (sorry, it is in Russian).

    The North Korea section does mention “uranium mines at Pakchon and Pyongsan”; and “two uranium enrichment plants”, but that’s about it. No details are provided.

    In the 1995 report, SVR discusses North Korea’s choice of gas-graphite reactor and mentions that one of the reasons that choice was made was the lack of experience with heavy water production and the lack of uranium enrichment capability. But two paragraphs later it says that the fuel cycle for the reactor includes uranium enrichment. This makes me somewhat suspicious of the SVR claims — people who wrote the reports don’t seem to fully understand what they are talking about.

  2. Steven Aftergood (History)

    We have a 1995 (not 1993) FSB report on The Nuclear Potential of Individual Countries:

    But if I read it correctly, it is not consistent with Niksch’s account of the 1993 FSB report. It does not confirm that the DPRK has an active uranium enrichment program, but rather cites “the lack of capacities and the appropriate scientific and practical experience in … enriching uranium for light water reactors.” (Sorry about the broken internal links, which I will try to fix next week.)

    Here is another curious item from Chosun Ilbo yesterday concerning Niksch and DPRK weapons programs.