11/22/2010, 00.00
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“Stunned” by North Korea’s new nuclear plant

Built secretly near Yongbyon, home of North Korea’s nuclear power station, the new facility is shown to Stanford University scientist Siegfried S. Hecker. US and Japan reacted with harsh words. Both want Pyongyang to come back to six-nation talks.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea has quickly and secretly built a new uranium enrichment plant that could contain up to 2,000 centrifuges, this according to US nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University, who said he was "stunned" by the sophistication of the facility, located near North Korea's nuclear facilities based at Yongbyon.

US defence secretary Robert Gates said he doubted North Korean claims that the facility is part of a peaceful nuclear energy programme.

“My view is that they have had an ongoing nuclear power programme for a long time. I believe they have nuclear weapons," Gates said. Therefore, "an enrichment plant like this, assuming that is what it is, obviously gives them the potential to create a number more".

Gates noted that North Korea already has developed new long-range missiles and perhaps even a new intercontinental ballistic missile, confirming concerns about that country.

The United States are pushing for North Korea to come back to the six-nation talks (which include North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States) on disarming its nuclear programme.

Pyongyang has instead insisted on direct talks with Washington, a demand the United States has dismissed.

“I have no idea what their motives are,” Gates said. However, “Frankly, it is premature to talk about diplomatic strategy," he added.

What is certain is that they did show their secret and hitherto unknown facility to a US scientist.

It is equally certain that Japan did not take the matter well.

“North Korea's nuclear development is absolutely unacceptable from the point of view of Japan's security and the region's peace and stability," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku.

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