IC on North Korea: No Consensus on HEU

Speaking of primary sources, here’s the “Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community”:http://www.dni.gov/testimonies/20090212_testimony.pdf (PDF). It’s already gotten a great deal of attention for A) emphasizing the threat posed by the _global_ — i.e., not just national — economic crisis, and B) stating that al-Qaida in Pakistan has suffered “a succession of blows as damaging to the group as any since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001” at the, um, hands of “America’s flying killer robots”:http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/predator/. (The “UK’s, too”:http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/04/raf_reaper_reaps_at_last/.) But all that’s been covered elsewhere. Instead, I’d like to draw your attention to how the assessment deals with North Korea.

Right after the major sections on the global economic crisis and “turning the corner” on al-Qaida are some words about “the Arc of Instability.” This seems to be the successor to such colorful geo-political constructs as the “Axis of Evil”:http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html and the “Shi’ite Crescent”:http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,518131,00.html. Basically, it’s the Middle East plus Pakistan and Afghanistan. Notice which perennial trouble spot is missing!

This is followed by “Rising Asia.” The “rising” part means China and India, but eventually — starting on page 24 in a 45-page document — we do reach a sub-section on North Korea and its nuclear program:

…Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and proliferation behavior threaten to destabilize East Asia. The North’s October 2006 nuclear test is consistent with our longstanding assessment that it had produced a nuclear device. Prior to the test, we assessed that North Korea produced enough plutonium for at least a half dozen nuclear weapons. The IC continues to assess North Korea has pursued a uranium enrichment capability in the past. Some in the Intelligence Community have increasing concerns that North Korea has an ongoing covert uranium enrichment program.

And it goes on for a bit from there. But what leaps out (especially with the added emphasis) is the divided and equivocal statement on uranium enrichment.

Update: I forgot to mention it, but this is not entirely new news. For background, see “here”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2153/nork-heu-3-12-years-old, “here”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2156/more-on-nork-heu, and “here”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2163/yet-more-on-nork-heu.

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