1. 'Zero Proliferation of N. Korean Missile Technology'
The Korea Times
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The top American general in South Korea said Tuesday that North Korea practically stopped exporting missile technology since 2005, according to the Yonhap News Agency Thursday.
The agency, which obtained transcripts of the remarks Gen. B. B. Bell, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) made during a Senate hearing, reported that Bell said North Korea was believed to be fully observing resolution 1718 of the U.N. Security Council, aimed at suspending all activities related to the North's ballistic missile programs.
The commander, however, expressed concern over Pyongyang's advanced missile capabilities, it said.
Bell's comments were in stark contrast to those of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's the same day, which criticized Pyongyang for proliferating its ballistic missile technology to ``rogue regimes'' such as Iran and Syria.
``On the Korean Peninsula, we all want to see the six-party talks conclude in the complete, verifiable dismantling of Kim Jong-il's nuclear weapons,'' said Cheney. ``Yet the fact remains that North Korea today is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the American mainland with a nuclear warhead. North Korea also possess a large force of missiles that threaten America's closest allies in Asia and our forces deployed in the region.''
He claimed North Korea has been assisting with Iran's effort to build up missile forces and capabilities.
``Syria is receiving assistance from North Korea in building up its missile forces and Iran has used Syria for years as a transit point to build up military capabilities,'' said Cheney.
North Korea's missile development has been a constant cause of concern, as has its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In 2006, the communist regime test-fired several missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 believed to be capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii with a light payload.
2. U.S., N. Korea to Work Toward Ending Weapons Impasse
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Top U.S. and North Korean diplomats will gather in Geneva tomorrow amid signs that the two sides, with the help of China, have structured a diplomatic framework that could resolve an impasse that has blocked a deal to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator, will meet with North Korean counterpart Kim Gye Gwan for one or two days. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "We're focused on trying to move the process forward."
Under an agreement reached in February 2007, North Korea was to have declared all of its nuclear programs and materials by the end of the year. Pyongyang admitted to possessing 30 to 40 kilograms of plutonium, U.S. officials said, but balked at providing full details about a suspected uranium enrichment program and about whether it had cooperated with Syria in an alleged nuclear program destroyed by Israeli fighters last September.
Now, diplomats said, a possible face-saving solution for North Korea may have been found in which those issues are separated from its initial declaration, such as in statements from Kim to Hill that would become part of the six-nation negotiations. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently signaled the new approach in a statement after talks last month in Asia: "I really have less concern about what form it takes or how many different pieces of paper there may have to be," as long as it results in progress.
Rice and Hill have increasingly focused on North Korea's stockpile of plutonium as the real threat to international security, officials said. But to persuade Pyongyang to abandon the plutonium, obtained from fuel rods in a small nuclear reactor, the administration must first settle the lingering questions concerning uranium enrichment and Syria. Increasingly, top U.S. officials view those as historical issues compared with the immediate proliferation risk posed by plutonium.
North Korea acquired much of its plutonium after the 2002 collapse of a Clinton administration agreement that froze the reactor. The Bush administration accused North Korea of cheating on the deal, citing evidence that Pyongyang had a clandestine uranium-enrichment program. Plutonium and highly enriched uranium are different routes to building nuclear weapons.
In a little-noticed speech at Amherst College on Jan. 30, Hill said that U.S. officials had largely concluded that thousands of aluminum tubes acquired by North Korea in 2002 -- which sparked the intelligence finding that Pyongyang was building a large-scale uranium-enrichment program -- were not currently being used to create fissile material.
"We have seen that these tubes are not being used for a centrifuge program," he said, according to an audio recording of the speech on Amherst's Web site. "We had American diplomats go and look at this aluminum that was used and see what they are actually using it for. We actually had American diplomats, people like myself, carry this aluminum back in our suitcases to verify this is the precise aluminum we knew the North Koreans had actually purchased."
Government scientists have discovered traces of enriched uranium on the aluminum samples, suggesting that they may have been used in such a program or that they came in contact with a centrifuge kit that North Korea acquired from a Pakistani smuggling network.
1. U.N. Alleges Nuclear Work By Iran's Civilian Scientists
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Iranian nuclear engineer Mohsen Fakhrizadeh lectures weekly on physics at Tehran's Imam Hossein University. Yet for more than a decade, according to documents attracting interest among Western governments, he also ran secret programs aimed at acquiring sensitive nuclear technology for his government.
Experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have repeatedly invited Fakhrizadeh to tea and a chat about Iran's nuclear work. But for two years, the government in Tehran has barred any contact with the scientist, who U.S. officials say recently moved to a new lab in a heavily guarded compound also off-limits to U.N. inspectors.
The exact nature of his research -- past and present -- remains a mystery, as does the work of other key Iranian scientists whose names appear in documents detailing what U.N. officials say is a years-long, clandestine effort to expand the country's nuclear capability. The documents, which were provided to the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency, in recent months by two countries other than the United States, partly match information in a stolen Iranian laptop turned over by Washington.
IAEA officials say these documents identify Fakhrizadeh and other civilian scientists as central figures in a secret nuclear research program that operated as recently as 2003. So far, however, Iran is refusing to shed light on their work or allow U.N. officials to question them. After being presented with copies of some of the new documents, Tehran denied that some of the scientists exist.
"When the allegations are raised, Iran simply dismisses them," said a Western diplomatic official familiar with the agency's dealings with Iran. "It insists that the documents are mostly fakes."
The standoff over interview requests has cast a shadow over a five-year U.N. effort to excavate the truth about Iran's nuclear past. In that search, Western anxieties have been compounded by Tehran's reluctance to clarify the history of its interest in technologies that could be used for either nuclear power or weapons.
A similar set of uncertainties helped provoke the U.S. war with Iraq, which the Bush administration justified partly by positing that Baghdad was deliberately concealing nuclear weapons research from U.N. inspectors. The outcome of that invasion suggests caution, however, since U.S. troops were unable to find any convincing evidence of banned weapons work, and deposed Iraqi officials said they had been secretive to conceal from regional opponents that they had ended such work, not continued it.
In Iran's case, U.N. officials say, the new evidence does not prove that the scientists carried out plans to build a nuclear device, but shows that Fakhrizadeh and other scientists struggled to master associated technologies. Several of the scientists, including Fakhrizadeh, appear to have moved freely between military and civilian research venues.
The documents purport to show advanced research into a variety of nuclear-related technologies, including uranium ore processing, warhead modification and the precision-firing of high explosives of the type used to detonate a nuclear device. Other documents point to attempts by civilian scientists to purchase sensitive equipment of the kind Iran would eventually use in its uranium enrichment plants.
Some of the new documents came from inside Iran, according to European officials familiar with them. None specifically include the word "nuclear," and IAEA officials say there is no evidence that any of the plans advanced beyond the paper stage.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a major opposition group that claims to have informants inside Iran's government, contends in materials provided to The Washington Post that nuclear weapons design work persists and has migrated to universities and schools. But U.S. and U.N. officials say they cannot corroborate the group's claim.
Instead, U.S. intelligence officials have said that Iran worked on weapons design in the past but halted the research in 2003. But government officials and weapons experts acknowledge concerns over Iran's refusal to answer questions or explain what key scientists are doing now.
"It's not the first time we've seen individuals who seem to wear white hats but are working on very different projects behind the scenes," said Leonard Spector, a former Energy Department nonproliferation official who is now deputy director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. He noted that other countries, particularly Pakistan, have used civilian scientists as cover for secret nuclear research.
Although the IAEA has not publicly described the contents of the new documents, the U.N. Security Council adopted new sanctions against Iran last week, in part because of what European leaders described as Tehran's "abysmal" performance in answering the IAEA's questions about past nuclear research.
"As long as Iran's choice remains one of non-cooperation, we for our part will remain determined to demonstrate the costs and consequences of that choice," British Ambassador Simon Smith said in a statement last week on behalf of Britain, Germany and France, which have taken the lead in trying to persuade Iran to stop making enriched uranium, a critical ingredient used in both nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.
Calls placed to Iran's U.N. mission in New York were not returned.
Fakhrizadeh is prominent in several of the documents, according to two officials who have seen them. A personnel chart listed him as the senior authority overseeing all the research projects. Another paper, purportedly signed by Fakhrizadeh, establishes spending guidelines for the research programs, while a third sets rules for communication among scientists, suggesting, for example, that researchers avoid putting their names on correspondence that might eventually become public, according to a Europe-based diplomat who viewed the documents.
Fakhrizadeh, 47, who became a Revolutionary Guard Corps member after the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979, is a former leader of the Physics Research Center, which U.N. officials say was heavily involved in drawing up plans and acquiring parts for Iran's first uranium enrichment plant. He was among eight Iranians placed under international travel and financial restrictions under the terms of a U.N. resolution adopted last year because of his alleged ties to "nuclear or ballistic missile" research, U.N. records show.
According to the Iranian opposition group, in addition to holding the university post, Fakhrizadeh recently was appointed the director of a new Center for Readiness and New Defense Technology, which is in Tehran and is under direct military command. Several of his deputies have been reassigned to nuclear departments at ostensibly civilian schools such as Shahid Beheshti University, also in Tehran.
"Fakhrizadeh is a key person, but he is not the only player," said Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the opposition group's foreign affairs committee.
1. Indonesia to Build Four Nuclear Power Plants by 2025
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The government plans to build four nuclear power plants by 2025 to meet electricity demand, State Minister for Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman said Wednesday.
"If one nuclear power plant can produce 1,200 megawatts of electricity, we need four plants by 2025 to meet demand," he said during a visit to Surakarta's March 11 University.
"We have surveyed a number of sites for the nuclear plants including in northern Java and southern Kalimantan."
Kusmayanto said going nuclear was part of the country's 2004- 2025 long-term development plan.
The government plans to build the first nuclear power plant near Mt. Muria in Jepara, Central Java. The plant is expected to be operational by 2016 despite strong opposition from residents and environment activists.
"We have to start the construction this year. Otherwise, we will be behind schedule," Kusmayanto said.
"It is normal if there are parties who oppose the plan. We have prepared everything for the nuclear power plant from planning, technology, financing to human resources."
Indonesia currently has three nuclear reactors for scientific purposes in Bandung, Yogyakarta and Serpong, Banten.
Available at: http://www.mathaba.net/0_index.shtml?x=585240
1. Govt Committed to Indo-US Nuclear Deal: Ronen Sen
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The government of India is "committed" to the civilian nuclear deal with the US, the top Indian diplomat here has said, maintaining that New Delhi is only bound by the bilateral 123 Agreement that has been worked out by the two countries.
Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen's comments come ahead of a crucial UPA-Left committee on the nuclear deal on March 17 in the face of an ultimatum by the Government's Communist allies to make its stand clear on the agreement.
Sen emphasised that the governments in both the countries will have to go through the "democratic process" before taking decisions and that neither of the parties would want to "lecture" the other on what it should or should not do.
"As far as the status of the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement is concerned... I would like to say clearly and categorically that the Government is committed to that," Sen told a large gathering at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies' India Initiative programme of George Washington University.
"There is still work in progress. We are a democracy and there are certain processes which have to be over and that is not complete; and we have to take subsequent steps from international forums," he said referring to the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The safeguards agreement, alongwith the NSG waiver, is a prerequisite to operationalise the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
"We hope that these steps will be completed as soon as possible so that this agreement will come into force," the top Indian official said.
As far as we are concerned -- that is the government of India -- we are committed to the bilateral agreement which we have worked out after long negotiations...What we are bound by is the 123 Agreement," Sen stressed in response to a question.
"As far as the NSG, I don't want to anticipate what the conclusion will be but we expect a clear exemption."
No agreement on any issue can and will be long-lasting unless it is perceived to be of mutual benefit, he said.
"There is a debate going on in both our countries... as democracies we have to take decisions through our democratic process," the Indian envoy to the US said.
"But I don't think any of us would want to lecture the other on what we should do or should not do," Sen said.
In his opening remarks, Sen said the framework of the US-India bilateral relationship was based on shared values, common concerns and intersecting interests not just in the short-term but also in the long-term and strategic aspects.
"The relationship is of mutual benefit. It is," he said.
Apart from the Ambassador, the seminar featured Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and currently a senior foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential contender Senator John McCain.
Tellis argued that the India policy under a new Republican administration will reflect continuity for a number of reasons.
He said the growth of Indian power is good for America, the two countries have some common enemies like the rise of radical movements, the beneficial elements will be tighter as a result of the bonds between the two societies and further economic integration and a robust US-India relations is good for the rest of the world.
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