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North Korean-Libyan Uranium Connection

The New York Times reported that uranium appeared to be from North Korea that was captured in Libya when Libya went state’s evidence on its nuclear program and turned over everything to the US, Britain, and the IAEA. However, the article says that the uranium is attributed to North Korea by process of elimination, not by a firm identification of its nuclear fingerprint. This makes the attribution less reliable and raises the question whether the Administration or its opponents have anything to gain by linking the uranium to North Korea.

At first blush, it would appear that this news is unfavorable to the Administration, because it indicates that the US policy toward North Korea is failing; North Korea has been more active in the nuclear bazaar than at first believed. On the other hand, the Administration’s ally Pakistan is no doubt deeply involved in Libya’s nuclear program on the basis of other evidence uncovered earlier in Libya. The Administration would rather blame North Korea than Pakistan for helping Libya build a bomb.

I don’t know who to blame, but the leak to the Times strikes me as planted by somebody. Granted uranium mined in different locations may have a U-234 fingerprint as the article states, but can we say this uranium is North Korean, because its fingerprint doesn’t match any we have on file? Do we know the U-234 content of all uranium mines in China? In the Soviet Union? Former Soviet Union states such as Kazakhstan? All African sources? Even Pakistan itself? After the CIA botched evaluating the nuclear program of Iraq, I would not trust it on this issue either, although the real expert agency is probably the Energy Department.

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