N. Korea threatens to enrich uranium

New York Times / April 30, 2009
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SEOUL - North Korea said yesterday it would start an uranium enrichment program, declaring for the first time that it intended to pursue a second project unless the United Nations lifted sanctions.

Calling the Security Council "a tool for the US highhanded and arbitrary practices," North Korea also threatened to conduct nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

It would take North Korea months to prepare a nuclear or ballistic missile test, and some Western intelligence agencies suspect North Korea has already been pursuing a covert uranium-based nuclear program in parallel to its known plutonium-based program. New nuclear tests would use up some of North Korea's fissile material, but give it more information to improve its technology, as would new missile tests.

By making public threats, the North used a familiar tactic to raise the stakes in the standoff between itself and Washington. Analysts say the country needs outside aid to feed its people and outside enemies to justify its harsh rule. Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, when North Korea lost most of its trade partners and aid providers, the country has used threats as a survival tactic. (When the United States and South Korea provide the North with aid, the government internally tells its people that the "enemies come groveling with tributes.")