North Korea could already be in possession of 20 nuclear warheads and uranium enrichment technology sufficient to double its arsenal by 2016. These estimates from Chinese nuclear experts, were communicated to the American authorities in a meeting last February, have been released today on the Wall Street Journal. These estimates exceed those of the Usa, says the Wsj, stating that Pyongyang are supposed to possess between 10 and 16 nuclear warheads.
One of the leading experts of the North Korean nuclear programme, Siegfried Hecker, present at the February meeting, stressed that the North Korean nuclear capacity estimated by the Chinese, makes the task of the international community increasingly difficult in convincing Pyongyang to give up nuclear technology: “the more they believe they have a nuclear arsenal which can act as a deterrence, the more difficult it i sto convince them to reduce it”. Chinese estimates have demonstrated growing concern of Beijing to Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, as well as the lack of American commitment as regards to the issue, with the US administration more focused on reaching an agreement with Iran, according to the Wsj.
To increase tensions between the two former allies there is also the matter of the Aiib, the Bank of China for infrastructure investment, where North Korea aims in entering. But Pyongyang’s request has received a direct ‘no’ from Beijing. The Bank, which immediately gathered the participation of dozens of countries, including Italy, France, and Germany, and one of the last who asked to join was Israel –, plans to invest 100 billion dollars in Asia: an appetible budget for North Korea, which is cut off almost everyone, having economic exchanges only with China and a few other States.
It would seem that the meeting had occurred last February between North Korean emissaries and the man designated by Beijing at the helm of the Aiib, Jin Liqun. The negative response in Pyongyang would be received as a cold shower by the north Korean officials, who apparently would not be able to ensure the repayment of any loans or guarantees. The mechanism currently in use with China provides that, in respect of transfers of currency, North Korea is offering uranium and other materials because its mining and industrial system lacks the technology for the treatment of such materials.
But this formula has not been deemed appropriate for the more sophisticated standards laid out by Aiib,conceived as a platform able to further corroborating the role of regional power in Beijing. According to the Japanese economist, Masahiro Kawai, the men of Kim Jong-un, pressed by the Chinese, would not have wanted to – or could not –provide details neither on the actual real economic situation of the country nor on its projects that require funding.