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NUKE PLANS STOLEN FROM UK; In the land of the Dark Ages.

Byline: CHRIS McLAUGHLIN Political Editor

THE nuclear reactor at the centre of the looming showdown between North Korea and the US was built with plans stolen from Britain.

They were snatched by Soviet spies during the Cold War and passed to the North Koreans, who then used them to build the Yongbyon Magnox plant.

Confidential Whitehall documents reveal that years later UN inspectors asked Britain for copies of the Magnox blueprint so they could do their jobs properly.

The reactor near Pyongyang is now being used in a dangerous game of nuclear brinkmanship by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.

Under a 1994 pact, North Korea agreed to dismantle the plant and accept monitoring by weapons inspectors in return for free oil. The new crisis flared last month after the US discovered North Korea was experimenting with production of weapons-grade uranium and cut off oil supplies. The Pentagon fears the hard-line Stalinist state has at least two nuclear missiles and could produce more in months.

And yesterday Kim Jong-Il raised the stakes further by announcing that UN weapons inspectors will be kicked out on Tuesday.

Amid clear signs of alarm in Washington at the mounting crisis, Tony Blair prepared to interrupt his Christmas break in Egypt to hold urgent phone talks with Russia's President Putin.

A Whitehall official warned: "It is a very delicate situation - North Korea could so easily miscalculate."
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:9NORT
Date:Dec 29, 2002
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