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CIA outlines N. Korean weapons plan

N Korea has enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon, the CIA report said
N Korea has enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon, the CIA report said  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- North Korea, one of the three nations in U.S. President's George W. Bush's so-called "axis of evil", was a major exporter of missile technology and equipment to the Middle East and other regions, a U.S. intelligence report says.

With attention placed on the communist state, as well as Iran and Iraq, during Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday, an unclassified U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report to Congress released the following day said that "Pyongyang attaches a high priority to the development and sale of ballistic missiles, equipment and related technology."

In his address, Bush said that "North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens."

Bush said that Iran, Iraq and North Korea constituted and "axis of evil and along with their "terrorist allies", were actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, "threatening the peace of the world."

All three nations have rejected the barb, with North Korea saying Bush's comments were close to "declaring a war."

The CIA report for the period January to 30 June 2001, obtained from the agency's Web site, says that North Korea relied heavily on the missile export trade.

"Exports of ballistic missiles and related technology are one of the North's major sources of hard currency, which fuel continued missile development and production," the report stated.

"Throughout the first half of 2001, North Korea continued to export significant ballistic missile-related equipment, components, materials, and technical expertise to countries in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa."

Nuclear weapons

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The report said that North Korea had not ceased its nuclear weapons program despite signing a landmark deal with the U.S. in 1994.

"During the second half of 2001, Pyongyang continued its attempts to procure technology worldwide that could have applications in its nuclear program," the CIA report said.

"We assess that North Korea has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons."

The report also said that an agreement signed with Russia laid the "groundwork" for potential arms sales and transfers to North Korea, though this was dependent on Pyongyang's ability to pay for the acquisitions.

The CIA report also singled out Iran and Iraq, among other countries, saying that the former was one of the "most active countries" seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and advanced conventional weapons (ACW) technology.

"Tehran is attempting to develop a domestic capability to produce various types of weapons -- chemical, biological, and nuclear -- and their delivery systems."

Chemical program

It was also seeking "nuclear-related equipment, material, and technical expertise from a variety of sources, especially in Russia", the report added.

Iran's neighbor, Iraq was rebuilding parts of its chemical production infrastructure the report said.

Since Baghdad's refusal to allow U.N. inspectors into Iraq since late 1998, it was difficult to accurately access the state of its WMD programs, the CIA report said.

But, "it is likely that Baghdad has used the intervening period to reconstitute prohibited programs."

Following Bush's speech, White House officials have since sought to clarify that the naming of North Korea, Iraq and Iran does not signify any imminent military action against them.

Regardless, both Middle Eastern countries were angry with the U.S. leaders comments.

In Tehran, the Iranian official news agency IRNA quoted President Mohammad Khatami as saying: "The American president's remarks not only showed that he does not have the ability to learn from history ... but also that U.S. policy is now worse and more unrealistic than under his predecessors."

Iraq meanwhile was even more blunt in its assessment with Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan describing the U.S. president's remarks as "stupid".


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