(Reuters) - China has told U.N. Security Council members it plans to block publication of a U.N. special report that accuses North Korea of violating sanctions on its nuclear program, Western diplomats said.
The report of the panel, which includes experts from the five permanent Security Council members, South Korea and Japan, was partly based on conversations with U.S. nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, who saw around 2,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium during a rare visit to North Korea last year.
Here are key elements of the confidential report, seen by Reuters, which the panel submitted to the council’s North Korea sanctions committee on January 27.
The panel says North Korea’s enrichment program and light-water reactor project are serious violations of the U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
Hecker and the panel members agree that North Korea most likely has several more undisclosed enrichment-related facilities. The chief engineer at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex told Hecker of a further facility for processing and converting uranium to a form usable in centrifuges but refused to show it to the American scientist.
The report said Hecker could not confirm whether the enrichment facility at Yongbyon is operational or not.
North Korea says it launched its enrichment program and began constructing the Yongbyon enrichment facility in April 2009. The panel disagreed.
“There is also a broad consensus among Panel members and the nuclear experts that the indicated timeline for the beginning of the program, as early 2009, is truly unrealistic,” the report said.
It said Pyongyang must have developed its enrichment program over the course of “several years or decades.”
The panel says North Korea has a large, technically educated workforce. It said panel members had no reason to doubt reports that North Korea graduates 200 nuclear engineers each year.
The panel says North Korea received a “starter kit” of centrifuges in the 1990s from Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear arms program who operated a black market operation that specialized in selling enrichment technology to countries under sanctions like Iran, Libya and North Korea.
That starter kit included first generation (P-1) and second generation, more advanced (P-2) centrifuges.
“It appears that the DPRK (North Korea) has replicated or developed a new design based on the P-2 centrifuges,” the report said.
The panel said the receipt of the “starter kit” does not explain how North Korea “achieved better results than other countries.” Diplomats said the panel had in mind Iran, which used P-1 and later P-2 centrifuges in its nuclear program.
North Korea appears “to have cooperated more closely with AQK (Khan) than Iran, possibly receiving training in the assembly, operation and maintenance of centrifuges.”
Among the reasons the panel doubts North Korean assertions that its centrifuges have been developed indigenously is the fact that North Korea has recently attempted to procure crucial parts for centrifuges from abroad.
“There are reasons to believe that the DPRK may transfer fissile materials or the means of producing them.” Among North Korea’s motives for such transfers is a lack of hard currency.
“The panel is particularly concerned with possible fissile material transfers to other countries in a clandestine manner.”
The report does not name any specific countries Pyongyang might consider transferring fissile material to, though the panel has previously suggested that Pyongyang may have aided Syria, Myanmar and Iran with nuclear or missile technology.
The panel makes a number of recommendations, including:
- adding additional firms and individuals who have been aiding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs
- greater sharing of information on North Korea between states and with the sanctions committee.
- Banning the sale to North Korea of so-called “choke-point” items crucial for centrifuges, including maraging steel, high strength aluminum alloys, bellows-sealed valves, fibrous or filamentary materials, filament-winding machinery, ring magnets and semi-hard magnetic alloys in thin strip form.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau