North Korea's Uranium Enrichment Centrifuge Plant Is Not Just About Pyongyang. It Is Also About Iran. Does Obama Know ... Or Care?

by Martin Peretz | November 23, 2010

The last time I looked the president was still trying to entice (or maybe the word I should say “entrance”) the Iranians into...Well, what? As with the North Koreans, Obama still has faith that Tehran -with all the evidence against this proposition notwithstanding- is a rational actor in its drive for nuclear weapons. In fact, given the assumption that atomic war is probably something that Iran would very much like to wage, Dr. A’jad and the ayatollahs are playing the game just right. They have gotten time and more time...and time is not really money. It is power.

Simon Henderson, the director of the study project on nuclear weapons at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has done an analysis of the report by Stanford University physicist Siegfried Hecker about the colossal (like in “colossus”) development by North Korea centrifuge plant for uranium enrichment.

Henderson is no slouch and Hecker is no slouch either. The latter is a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. ‘Nuf said.

According to Hecker, the fact that construction of the North Korean production plant began in April 2009 and was recently completed suggests the successful design of centrifuge cascades in pilot plants or other sites elsewhere. (Pakistan also built additional reserve cascades in tunnels and at Gadwal, west of Islamabad. Iran was discovered building a second enrichment plant near Qom in 2009.)

Predictably, in the vortex between east Asia and the Muslim Middle East, Pakistan also appears as more than a mischief maker.

For several years, North Korea has been suspected of working on centrifuge technology because of the country's past close relationship with Pakistan. … Four years ago, former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf alleged in his autobiography that Abdul Qadir Khan, the head of the Kahuta facility, had transferred to North Korea several of Pakistan's P1 and P2 centrifuges in the late 1990s.

And, of course, there is the Iran gambit.

The existence of the new Yongbyon centrifuge plant, which theoretically could give North Korea the capacity to make highly enriched uranium (HEU), an alternative nuclear explosive, places in doubt current assessments of Iran's centrifuge capabilities

The president may (or may not) get his new START treaty. It would be good if he did, and the Republicans are playing recklessly as if the playing was in a game. Still, it would not be a disaster if we had to wait a few years to START.

But waiting for Pyongyang and Tehran to behave is a disaster in the making. And China should be thought of as a primary culprit in these matters. But that’s another country about which Obama knows nothing about, and it shows.

PS: As I write the New York Times website has news which looks like North Korea wants a war or, if we’re lucky, something just short of one.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-spine/79393/north-koreas-uranium-enrichment-centrifuge-plant-not-just-about-pyongyang-it-al