- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.
intelligence analysts have detected slight "increases of activity"
around a North Korean nuclear plant but have made no "hard conclusions"
on whether the country is reprocessing nuclear fuel for potential weapons
use, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
- "It's fair to say the experts have come to no hard
conclusions," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.
- Another U.S. official told Reuters that intelligence
analysts had detected within the last week "some slight increases
of activity" around the Yongbyon plant.
- "There was another indicator that briefly suggested
that something might be going on, but that indicator stopped happening
as well," the official said, declining to be specific.
- "Is there some slight indication that something
might be happening? Yes. Is it probable that they have started up entirely?
No," the official said.
- The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that within
the previous 48 hours intelligence analysts had seen increasing signs North
Korea had begun reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods to produce plutonium,
which can be used in nuclear weapons.
- The State Department said last week North Korea confirmed
it possessed nuclear weapons and was reprocessing fuel rods, which the
United States has not independently confirmed.
- Administration officials said Pyongyang made the admission
in talks between the United States, North Korea and China in Beijing.
- Top U.S. foreign policy officials were meeting to discuss
North Korea on Wednesday. The Post said the session would endorse an approach
to Pyongyang combining talks and pressure on the communist state that included
steps taken to crack down on sales of illegal drugs and counterfeit goods,
and possibly missile sales.
- While White House officials did not confirm the Post
report, Fleischer, asked whether the United States would crack down on
illicit sales as a way to pressure North Korea, said, "Clearly if
a sale is illegal it should not take place."
- The New York Times reported earlier the administration
was altering long-standing policy to prevent the country from producing
weapons-grade materials to also block sales of nuclear materials.
- Another official on Wednesday indicated such a strategy
was already part of administration policy, citing a White House strategy
document on combating the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
- That document outlined an effort to prevent countries
from acquiring nuclear weapons while seeking to curb sales of weapons by
those that have acquired them.
- "We combine nonproliferation efforts with counter-proliferation
efforts. Nonproliferation efforts are never going to be 100 percent (successful),"
the official said.