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North Korea

Volume 401: debated on Friday 14 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the nuclear programmes in (a) Iran and (b) North Korea; and if he will make a statement. [101822]

There has been concern about the nuclear ambitions of both Iran and North Korea for sometime. The IAEA Director-General has recently returned from a fact finding mission to Iran. We await his report to the IAEA Board of Governors.On North Korea's programme I refer the hon. Member to the answer given him by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Rammell) today UIN 101823.We continue to monitor closely developments in both countries.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the threat posed to the United Kingdom by North Korea's nuclear programmes. [101823]

We assess that North Korea has the technical capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons, and that the volume of plutonium it has diverted from its nuclear programme would be sufficient to make one or

two weapons. We also believe that North Korea could flight test a missile with the potential to reach Europe within weeks of a decision to do so. Once such a missile was flight-tested, it would take several years to deploy the missile operationally.

Assessment of threat is based on both capability and intent. We currently have no evidence of North Korean intent to target the UK.

We deplore North Korea's recent actions, including the expulsion of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors from Yongbyon, and the stated intention to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.