North Korea doubles nuclear capability

  • A site in the mountains near Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, is thought to be the North's main nuclear facility 
  • While there's some debate about North Korea's stockpile of nuclear materials, "you're looking at a few tens of warheads, but that number's going to keep going up every year," according to Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk

March 22.─ North Korea has doubled the size of its facility for enriching uranium in recent years, says the UN’s top nuclear inspector, who voiced doubt that a diplomatic agreement can end leader Kim Jong-un’s weapons programs.

International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Yukiya Amano described North Korea as rapidly advancing its capacity to produce nuclear weapons on two fronts: the production of plutonium at its Yongbyon nuclear facility and the enrichment of uranium.

Mr Amano played a leading role in negotiating the landmark nuclear agreement reached ­between world powers and Iran in 2015 to scale back Tehran’s ­nuclear program. The Japanese diplomat, who was tapped this month to serve a third term as the IAEA’s chief, played down the chances for a similar diplomatic approach with Kim and his military government.

“This is a highly political issue. A political agreement is essential,” he said yesterday, but added, “we can’t be optimistic. The situation is very bad. We don’t have the reason to be optimistic.”

Comparing North Korea to Iran, he said: “The situation is very different ... "

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