North Korea now 'fully fledged nuclear power'
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the United Nations nuclear agency, has said that North Korea is a fully fledged nuclear power, as Russia warned there was no quick solution to the breakdown in negotiations with the rogue state.
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Last Updated: 4:16PM BST 24 Apr 2009
Mohamed ElBaradei: Mr ElBaradei said there are now nine countries in the world with the capability of launching a nuclear missile Photo: REUTERS
"North Korea has nuclear weapons, which is a matter of fact," said Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaking in Beijing.
He added: "I don't like to accept any country as a nuclear weapon state but we have to face reality."
North Korea threatens nuclear testMr ElBaradei said there are now nine countries in the world with the capability of launching a nuclear missile. His comments echoed a report by a Pentagon task force chaired by James Schlesinger, the former US defence secretary. The task force admitted that "North Korea, India and Pakistan have acquired both nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems".
The warning that North Korea is a full nuclear power came as Russia's most senior diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, visited Pyongyang and warned that there is no sign of a easy solution to the North Korean crisis. The rogue state vowed to cease all negotiation and to restart its nuclear weapons programme after it was criticised by the UN Security Council for illegally testing a missile at the beginning of April.
"We do not foresee any breakthroughs," he told Russia's Interfax news agency after he held talks with the North Korean foreign minister, Pak Ui-chun. "This is a complicated process and we must not give in to emotions. We need to concentrate on the base we already have."
Russia and China are traditionally sympathetic to Pyongyang, but both countries supported the censure from the UN, and said existing sanctions should be more tightly enforced. The US and Japan have already prepared a blacklist of North Korean businesses whose assets should be frozen.
North Korea's decision to eject nuclear inspectors and build up an atomic arsenal has widely been seen as a negotiating ploy, but frustration in the West is growing with Kim Jong-il's regime. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state said earlier this week that the world should not "give in" to North Korea's "unpredictable behaviour".
The South Korean foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan, said it would be some time before the North could restart its Yongbyon nuclear plant.
Meanwhile, General Walter Sharp, the commander of US forces in South Korea, said the North Korean army was "old" but dangerous.
"They have a very large special operating force and have the world's largest artillery force that is positioned very far south that can rain [explosives] on Seoul today," he said.