Letter to Financial Times:
Your important interview with President Trump (“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,”Financial Times, April 3, https://www.ft.com/content/4d9f65d6-17bd-11e7-9c35-0dd2cb31823a) raises two important unanswered questions.
Firstly, how did North Korea obtain the technology to build its atom bomb?
There is significant evidence that the British Magnox nuclear plant design – which was primarily built as a military plutonium production factory – provided the blueprint for the North Korean military plutonium programme based in Yongbyon. Here is what Douglas (now Lord) Hogg, then a Conservative minister, admitted in a written parliamentary reply in 1994:
“We do not know whether North Korea has drawn on plans of British reactors in the production of its own reactors. North Korea possesses a graphite moderated reactor which, while much smaller, has generic similarities to the reactors operated by British Nuclear Fuels plc. However, design information of these British reactors is not classified and has appeared in technical journals.”
(Douglas Hogg, (now Lord Hailsham) written parliamentary reply to Labour MP Llew Smith, Hansard 25 May 1994). http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1994/may/25/korea#column_186w)
The uranium enrichment programmes of both North Korea and Iran also have a UK connection. The blueprints of this type of plant were stolen by Pakistani scientist, A Q Khan, from the URENCO enrichment plant in The Netherlands in the early 1970s.
(see David Albright, Peddling Peril,2010 pp 15-28,Free Press, New York)
This plant was - and remains - one-third owned by the UK government. The Pakistan government subsequently sold the technology to Iran, who later exchanged it for North Korean Nodong missiles.
A technical delegation from the A Q Khan Research Labs visited North Korea in the summer of 1996. The secret enrichment plant was said to be based in caves near Kumch’ang-ni, 100 miles north of the capital, Pyonyang, where US satellite photos showed tunnel entrances being built. Hwang Jang-yop, a former aid to President Kim Il-sung (the grandfather of the current North Korean President) who defected in 1997, revealed details to Western intelligence investigators. (see: Levy A, Scott-Clark C Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Global Weapons Conspiracy, 2007, p.281, Atlantic Books)
Secondly, as former US State Department senior official Professor Bennett Ramberg has written extensively, even if the US were to destroy North Korea’s military nuclear infrastructure, Pyongyang has thousands of conventional missiles, many aimed at South Korea’s national infrastructure, including its 23 reactors at four sites ( with another under construction at Yeongdeok.) (“Responding to North Korea,” http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/02/15/responding-to-north-korea/)
Any such attack would inevitably destroy the containment for the irradiated (spent) nuclear fuel storage ponds adjoining each reactor complex, distributing uncontrolled radiation across the densely populated peninsula.