SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea said Friday that it is in the final stages of enriching uranium, a process that could give the nation a second way to make nuclear bombs in addition to its known plutonium-enriching program.
The official Korean Central News Agency said in a report early Friday that North Korea informed the U.N. Security Council it is forging ahead with its nuclear programs in defiance of international calls to abandon its atomic ambitions.
The dispatch said plutonium "is being weaponized," and that uranium enrichment - a program North Korea revealed in recent months - was entering the "completion phase." Experts had long suspected the existence of a hidden uranium enrichment program, which would give the regime a second source of nuclear material.
A South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
The North's announcement came a day after a U.S. special envoy arrived in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials on how to get North Korea back on track with its commitments to nuclear disarmament.
Stephen Bosworth, the special envoy to North Korea, was to arrive in Seoul later Friday for similar consultations with South Korean officials before traveling to Tokyo on Sunday as part of an Asia tour amid recent conciliatory moves by Pyongyang.
His visit to the region aims to "continue consultations with our partners and allies on how to best convince North Korea that it must live up to its obligations ... and take irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization," the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in a statement.
North Korea called the decision to push ahead with its nuclear programs a reaction to the Security Council's moves to tighten sanctions against the regime for testing a nuclear bomb in May. The report called the resolution a "wanton violation of the DPRK's sovereignty and dignity." DPRK stands for the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have been negotiating with North Korea for years on dismantling its nuclear program in exchange for aid and other concessions.
North Korea walked away from the talks earlier this year. North Korea also conducted its second nuclear test in May, drawing international condemnation and new U.N. sanctions.
The North's move also came amid its conciliatory overtures to Seoul and Washington. The North freed two U.S. journalists and five South Koreans, including four fishermen, in recent weeks.
The two Koreas also agreed to restart reunions of Korean family separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and restored regular traffic to a joint industrial park in the North.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
Members of San Diego's police union have ratified a new contract that will raise pay by up to 30.6 percent for some personnel in an effort to bolster hiring and retention efforts in the San Diego Police Department, city leaders announced Monday.
Santa Ana winds will blow through much of San Diego County Monday and combine with record-high temperatures and extremely dry air to create dangerous fire conditions, forecasters said.
Authorities are working Monday to identify the human remains recovered where a plane crash sparked a fire over the weekend in Lakeside, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office.
Dozens of schools in the San Diego Unified School District will be on minimum-day schedules Monday due to forecasted high temperatures, the district said Sunday.
A group of Scripps Ranch residents, some of whom lost homes in the 2003 Cedar Fire, assembled care packages Sunday for survivors of the deadly blazes in Northern California.
Emotions are still raw for many who went through the 2007 fires in San Diego County and lost homes or loved ones.
Firefighters put out a small fire north of the El Capitan Reservoir in Lakeside and sheriff's deputies were securing the scene where a small plane crashed, authorities said Sunday.