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Mullen calls North Korea 'very dangerous' country

Siegfried Hecker
American nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, left, speaks to media upon returning from North Korea, at Beijing international airport in Beijing, China, on Nov. 13. North Korea has secretly and quickly built a new facility to enrich uranium, according to the American scientist, raising fears that the North is ramping up its nuclear program despite international pressure.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday he worries that North Korea is advancing its potential nuclear capability toward "real life" after a scientist reported new activity in its atomic program.

The American nuclear expert who recently visited North Korea says he was taken to a small industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility and told that low-enriched uranium was being produced for a new reactor.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer, said such activities would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and agreements by North Korea over its nuclear program.

"From my perspective, it's North Korea continuing on a path which is destabilizing for the region. It confirms or validates the concern we've had for years about their enriching uranium, which they've denied routinely," Mullen said. "They are a country that routinely we are unable to believe that they would do what they say."

Noting the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March, which killed 46 sailors and has been blamed on North Korea, Mullen said on CNN's "State of the Union" that "all of this is consistent with belligerent behavior, the kind of instability-creation in a part of the world that is very dangerous."

"They're a very dangerous country," he said on "This Week" on ABC. "I've been worried about North Korea and its potential nuclear capability for a long time. This certainly gives that potential real life, very visible life that we all ought to be very, very focused on."

Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the "troubling report" makes it important to restart international talks about the North Korean program and re-examine the effectiveness of efforts to putting in place penalties against the North.

Kerry, D-Mass., pointed to China as a key, saying Beijing is an influential ally and trading partner of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and is "well-positioned to enhance the international community's enforcement activities."

"Only a comprehensive approach that can achieve security, peace, and development offers any hope of verifiably eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons," Kerry said in a statement. "The longer it takes to launch that effort, the longer the United States and its allies will be forced to cope with the destabilizing consequences of the DPRK's reckless and irresponsible pursuit and export of highly sensitive technologies."