The nuclear proliferation threat posed by North Korea
has worsened over the past year, the International
Institute for Strategic Studies said in a report
Both North Korea and Iran were cited in the British
think tank's "Military Balance 2004-2005" as exploiting
the United States' growing troubles in Iraq to gain
enough confidence to stall talks on disarmament.
The report outlined the little progress toward restoring
a disarmament agreement with North Korea made at the
third round of six-nation talks hosted by China, stating
that "Pyongyang appears content to bide its time,
waiting for the outcome of the U.S. elections."
Regarding the extent of North Korea's arms, the
situation remains ambiguous. The IISS said Pyongyang had
"apparently separated enough plutonium for a few
additional nuclear weapons" and that there is a
possibility the country may have obtained Soviet missile
technology, but that this was impossible to confirm
using satellite technology alone.
The IISS reiterated a report made in early June that
North Korea had conducted an engine test for the
Taepodong 2, a missile estimated to have a maximum range
of 6,000 kilometers. But it said further testing was
unlikely at present as it would only serve to antagonize
Beijing, Tokyo and Washington.
The next step toward any form of agreement with North
Korea is likely to depend very much on the outcome of
the U.S. presidential election in November.
Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic Party contender, has
already indicated he would be prepared to enter into
bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang, offering
incentives if it abandons its nuclear weapons programs.
President George W. Bush, if reelected, is likely to
continue to reject bilateral negotiations and pursue the
Whatever approach the next U.S. administration takes,
nonproliferation of nuclear weapons is likely to receive
But the IISS emphasized that diplomatic efforts to
deprive North Korea of its nuclear capability and
prevent Iran from obtaining one will be difficult,
stating that "the occupation of Iraq will continue to
sap Washington's energy and potentially weaken its