Report: North Korea Probably Has One or Two Nuclear Bombs
NEW YORK (AP) _ A classified CIA document concludes that North Korea probably has developed one or two nuclear bombs, The New York Times reported.
The CIA’s assessment represents the collective judgement of U.S. intelligence agencies, the Times reported in Sunday editions. President Clinton and senior officials received it in recent weeks.
The assessment, if it turns out to be true, could threaten Asian stability. Many U.S. officials fear nuclear bombs in North Korea would touch off an Asian arms race and push Japan to develop its own nuclear weapons.
Clinton has pledged that ″North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb.″
Some officials argue the administration is playing down the study because it questions the effectiveness of diplomatic efforts to deal with the problem, the Times said.
But other senior administration officials say claims that North Korea has a nuclear bomb or two are a ″worst-case″ analysis. They say the conclusions are not based on conclusive proof, but on estimates of the amount of plutonium North Korea could have produced and assessments of how fast the program is progressing.
When asked about the new assessment, administration officials said they remained determined to use diplomacy to prevent North Korea from making more plutonium for nuclear weapons.
If the study proves to be correct, however, the officials said the administration would force North Korea to give up its bombs.
Pentagon officials have said a pre-emptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear facilities is unattractive because it could lead to war. They also say American intelligence officials don’t know where North Korea has hidden its nuclear materials.