N. Korean Papers Detail Nuclear Program
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
NOAH ADAMS, Host:
NPR's Michele Kelemen has a report.
MICHELE KELEMEN: Government translators and nuclear experts are poring over the documents that Sung Kim lugged the back from Pyongyang. He's the head of the State Department's Office of Korean Affairs, and he brought one box into the briefing room today to give reporters a sense of the work ahead.
NORRIS: These are operating and production records for the five megawatt reactor and the reprocessing plant in Yangbian. They number 18,822 pages, 314 volumes.
KELEMEN: He said it appears they are a complete set, but he said documents alone aren't enough.
NORRIS: We will need to conduct a very full verification including access to their facilities, sampling interviews with personnel involved in the programs. But I - these documents are an important first step.
KELEMEN: North Korea says it has about 30 kilograms of plutonium, enough for roughly four or five nuclear bombs. Sieg Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos, previously estimated that North Korea has 40 to 50 kilograms of plutonium.
NORRIS: We're very uncertain about the early period, 1986 to 1992 or 3, and so we could be off in - by 10 kilograms or so. However, you know, we would need the records and need access, and that's the step they have now taken. So, it's an important step.
KELEMEN: U.S. officials say they are still expecting North Korea to address those issues. But Sieg Hecker, now at Stanford University, says the U.S. should keep focused on North Korea's plutonium.
NORRIS: Based on minor actions and visits with the North Korean, I believe that they are prepared to get rid of plutonium production in Yangbian. And so, we must go for that now. And not slow down the rest of the process until the critics, you know, get what they would like to get. And that is the complete declaration of everything now.
KELEMEN: John Wolfsthal of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees. He says those who want to take a harder line on North Korea today forget that that is precisely what the Bush administration tried at first. He credits the administration for changing its approach.
NORRIS: What we have is an imperfect process, but one that at least has the potential to give us what we want, which is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And as long as we have that opportunity, and unless there are other alternatives, I think we have no choice but to pursue the path we're on.
KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.