Three Scenarios for HEU Program

[imText1]Although expectation of completion of initial measures of the Feb. 13 Agreement grows after meeting between the US and North Korea, controversy over highly enriched uranium (HEU) program of North Korea is still heated.

The US is sure of presence of North Korea’s HEU program while Pyongyang continues to deny it.

Until now, official stance of Washington on the controversy has been that HEU program must be included into the list of nuclear programs to be reported. However, changing political atmosphere between two countries suggest that the uranium program might be compromised.

① There is a possibility that the United States might not provoke the North Koreans in order to carry on the Feb 13 Agreement. Experts argue that if North Korea’s HEU program has not reached a level of weapons production, the US may resort to political compromise.

In fact, diplomats in Washington started to talk about asking North Korea to report its uranium enrichment program (UEP) in general, rather than HEU specifically. Given that lowly-enriched uranium (LEU) can be used for peaceful purpose of electricity generation, if HEU is not an issue, North Korea’s previous attempt to enrich uranium could be pardoned.

And North Korea is likely to admit LEU rather than HEU as negotiation goes on. The country might insist on LEU’s peaceful nature.

Chun Hyun Joon, senior analyst of Korea Unification Institute, said “the United States is firm in its commitment to nonproliferation, and if North Korea is sincere with nonproliferation principle HEU issue could be solved easily.”

②Also, Washington may suggest a phased solution of the HEU program controversy.

And Kim Kye Gwan, North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed will to cooperate on HEU issue shows possibility of constructive negotiation over the program.

In this case, the United States chooses to wait for North Korea’s report on enriched uranium program and verify it afterwards.

“Since the United States puts too much energy in completing the initial measures of Feb 13 Agreement, it wouldn’t want to interrupt the negotiation,” a South Korean state research institute analyst said on condition of anonymity. “Therefore Washington is going to take the HEU issue as a long term one, not asking North Korea too many.”

③ Lastly, the US government may not allow North Korea’s HEU program in long-term, strategic perspective.

If Washington pushes North Korea hard over the HEU program during the initial phase of negotiation, US’s resolve to denuclearize of the Korean peninsula would be proved not weakened at all.

Christopher Hill, US Assistant Secretary of State recently commented “HEU program must be verified and we should find out about it.”

Professor Yoon analyzed that the United States would never ignore the HEU program in long term. He said “because evidence of HEU program will be found more as time goes on, it is difficult to cover the issue politically.”