Not Enough Plutonium for Second Test: US Expert Said

[imText1]Siegfried Hecker, former chief of Los Alamos National Laboratory and world renowned nuclear specialist, expected chance of additional nuclear tests by North Korea as low.

Dr. Hecker argued in a conference jointly held by South Korea’s Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative and Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center on Tuesday, based on his observation in North Korea.

“Since North Korea possesses limited amount of Plutonium, they are considering more nuclear tests as detrimental to themselves,” Hecker told South Korean reporters.

“Moreover,” Hecker added, “if North Koreans do another test, they would certainly pay high price, so it is not likely that North Korea will test its nuclear warheads again.”

During his visit to Pyongyang, North Korean officials told Hecker that they were ‘not preparing second nuclear test,’ and the former head of Los Alamos found no sign of another test or intention of doing one in the future.

On North Korea’s HEU, Highly Enrichment Uranium, program, Hecker guessed, based on his observation, North Korea ‘owns HEU program,’ while its ability to carry nuclear weapons fell short.

Whether or not North Korea would actually stop operating of the Yongbyon reactor was not sure, Hecker said.

On possibility of multi-lateral nuclear arms reduction as North Korean officials had suggested, Hecker said “It doesn’t make any sense, since current negotiation is based on the 2005 Joint Communique (in which North Korea promised its own denuclearization in exchange with security guarantee and other incentives) and North Korea only owns up to 6 to 8 nuclear bombs.”
“In case of talks between the United States and Soviet Union, both countries had thousands of nuclear warheads and missiles to destruct the other, whereas North Korea cannot inflict serious damage on the States.”

T.J. Pempel, a professor at UC Berkeley, expected fulfillment of the 2005 Joint Communique would take considerable amount of time. “If North Korea procrastinates the talks (by the end of President Bush’s term), the United States would consult with the other four nations to pursue additional sanctions and UN Security Council resolutions.”

Siegfried Hecker served as a head of Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997 and has visited North Korea several times. Dr. Hecker is widely regarded as one of the best experts on North Korean nuclear issue.