WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2010 — Revelations that North Korea has secretly built a large uranium enrichment facility validates long-standing concerns about that nation’s nuclear intentions and is a destabilizing force in the region, the top U.S. military officer said today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week ” TV programs this morning.
“The assumption certainly is that [North Korea] continues to head in the direction of additional nuclear weapons,” Mullen said. “They are also known to proliferate this technology, so they’re a very dangerous country.”
According to a story that appeared yesterday in The New York Times, North Korean officials allowed visiting Stanford University professor Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to tour a sophisticated new uranium enrichment plant that North Korea has built in secret and may have been built with foreign help.
“I’ve been concerned for a long time about instability in that region and North Korea has been at the center of that,” Mullen said. “We’ve worked hard with other countries to try to bring pressure on them” to comply with strict United Nations Security Council resolutions related to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“This in fact violates United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718  and 1874 ,” Mullen said. “And it violates what they said they’d do in 2005 with respect to getting to the six-party talks [aimed at addressing the country’s nuclear program]. So they’re a country that routinely we are unable to believe they will do what they say.” North Korea is the greatest threat to peace in Northeast Asia and the focal point of the defense posture on the peninsula. North Korea is believed to have at least 1.5 million military members along with its nuclear capabilities.
In March, North Korea torpedoed and sank the South Korean navy ship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.
In October, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young participated in the 42nd Security Consultative Meeting here, after which they told reporters that the U.S.-South Korea military alliance has never been stronger.
Both men called on North Korea to end provocative actions like the Cheonan attack.
The news that the ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has anointed his son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor has the alliance preparing to defend against all possible North Korean threats.
“We have to continue to bring pressure on [Kim Jong-il],” Mullen said, specifically through the six-party-talk countries — Russia, China, the United States, Japan and South Korea. President Barack Obama “sent out a team to each of the capitals this weekend to re-engage. That’s where we are right now and I’m sure we will continue to do that,” Mullen said. “We’ve been engaged with China for an extended period of time with respect to North Korea,” Mullen added. “A great part of this will have to be done through Beijing.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)