Skip to comments.North Korean diplomat implicated in nuclear plot: German press
Posted on 09/21/2003 10:20:58 PM PDT by HAL9000
HAMBURG, Germany (AFP) - A former North Korean diplomat is accused of ordering material from a German firm that could be used in the production of nuclear weapons, Germany's Der Spiegel reported in its Monday edition.
The news magazine said a German businessman would go on trial in Stuttgart, southwest Germany, next month in connection with the case.
The diplomat was named by Spiegel as Yun Ho Jin. It said he used to work as a Pyongyang representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
According to Der Spiegel, Yun Ho Jin ordered special aluminium tubes from the businessman which, experts say, are used to build gas ultracentrifuges in which uranium is enriched.
The equipment was impounded in April after being loaded on board a ship.
The unidentified businessman, who got to know the diplomat in the late 1980s, is accused of breaching trade export laws and "attempts to encourage production of a nuclear weapon."
Experts from the IAEA, the German foreign ministry and the German foreign intelligence service are expected to testify, the magazine added.
In this case, a centifuge that is only approximately symmetric on its axis of spin can only be spun at such and such a speed. While one balanced a thousand times more finely can be spun much faster, without becoming unstable.
Seperation of U-235 from U-238 uses tiny density differences between them to accumulate the heavier isotopes at the outside, leaving the lighter on the inside, of a spun metal disk. To get any appreciable quantity of U-235 this way, you need a very high speed centrifuge. Unless it is machined to extremely high tolerances, spinning a centifuge full of a heavy metal that fast will just break it, dismounting it from its bearings, from unstable wobble.
Does Germany also have looser controls over export of this sort of thing? That is more than I know. They seem to have caught this guy anyway.
I think that centrifuge separation of uranium isotopes involves a gas, uranium hexafluoride, rather than solid uranium. From what I have heard, a major technical problem is that this gas is very corrosive.
I agree that it is likely that Germany got this work because of their expertise with machine tools. But it seems like a strange thing to contract out, given that Germany has already been caught a number of times selling this technology as well as the technology for making poison gas weapons. Indeed, given German history, it seems odd that they have become the experts on these technologies.
APRIL 2003 : (GERMAN AUTHORITIES ALERT FRENCH CONCERNING ALUMINUM TUBES LOADED ONTO A FRENCH SHIP; TUBES BELIEVED TO BE DESTINED FOR NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM) THE German government has intercepted a shipment of German-made aluminium tubes probably destined for use in North Korea's nuclear program, according to a German magazine. The weekly Der Spiegel says in its latest issue that 22 tonnes of aluminium tubes, essential in the manufature of enriched uranium, were loaded onto a French ship in Hamburg in early April just as German authorities vetoed the shipment. The German government alerted the French authorities, who ordered the ship's captain to unload the containers in Egypt.
Officially the tubes were on their way to a Chinese aeronautics company, but according to Der Spiegel Berlin believes this company was a front for North Korea. The German firm's business contact was a North Korean national, it says. The magazine says the head of the German company, called Optronic and based at Koenigsbronn in southern Germany, was detained for questioning.
The prosecutor's office in Stuttgart confirmed it had opened an investigation into a local firm suspected of contravening foreign trade regulations, but gave no further details.
On Thursday, in the first direct high-level contact between the United States and North Korea since the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear program erupted last October, North Korea confirmed it possessed nuclear weapons.- "'Nuke-related' shipment for N.Korea," News.com.au, 4/27/03 *
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