This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," February 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It's three years and counting since we've been watching North Korea (search) break the rules, the details coming out just in time for Wednesday's State of the Union (search) address. U.S. intelligence shows that the North Koreans almost certainly sold processed uranium (search) to Libya, nearly two tons of the stuff used for nuclear weapons.
I'm joined now by Stephen Bosworth, former ambassador to the Republic of Korea and the Philippines.
Mr. Bosworth, the big question, could North Korea be selling uranium to more countries than just Libya, let's say Iran or, really, anybody else?
STEPHEN BOSWORTH, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: Well, I think they probably could be. Obviously, Iran would be the major suspect. But whether they are or not, I don't think anyone really knows.
GIBSON: Why do, we thought, perhaps, the Libya nuclear weapons, and we managed to shut that down, and we got all of Libya's stuff, and we're inspecting it and taking a look in that. And that's how we know where this bomb fuel came from.
But we thought it was, it came from Pakistan for the longest time. Why didn't we suspect it was North Korea, and why shouldn't we suspect that North Korea's involved with other countries that want these weapons?
BOSWORTH: Well, I think there's no reason to not believe that North Korea would be willing to send it, sell it to other countries. North Korea has a long history of being a proliferator. They sold missile technology, for example, to lots of countries that we would rather not have that technology.
GIBSON: What is the state of the danger of North Korea now? Have we got to the point where we can watch every ship that leaves North Korea? We know where it goes, we know what they're shipping things? Or can they still do this secretly?
BOSWORTH: Oh, I think they can do a lot of things secretly. You're talking about shipments of things, even this uranium hexafluoride, which is not all that large, in a real sense.
If they were ever in the position of exporting plutonium, for example, which is already a fissile material, which this stuff that the Libyans had bought from them apparently is not, in other words, it requires a lot more reprocessing before it can be used as the ingredients for a nuclear weapon, but if they started shipping plutonium, you know, they could ship enough plutonium would be the size of a basketball.
It would weigh a lot more than a basketball, but it would be about the size of a basketball, and that could be sufficient to build a nuclear device.
GIBSON: Is there any reason to suspect that North Korea would deal with non-state actors, commonly known as terrorists, Al Qaeda?
BOSWORTH: Well, I'm not sure. I don't think there's any reason to believe that they would. But there's certainly no reason to be confident that they would not, either.
I think that the big question with regard to North Korea is, what do we do about this nuclear threat? They've declared their intention to become a nuclear weapons state, although they've stopped just short of declaring that they actually are.
But I think that the big story is not so much just the export of the uranium hexafluoride, it is the conclusion that was, I think, also announced today in both of the journals that I saw reporting on this, that they have successfully reprocessed the spent fuel rods from their earlier plutonium-based program.
And that would give them, conceivably, enough fissile material to produce six nuclear devices.
Moreover, if they continue to produce spent fuel rods, and continue to reprocess those, they could establish, in fairly short order, an assembly line of plutonium, which would be sufficient to produce probably another six every year.
GIBSON: Ambassador Bosworth. Ambassador, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
BOSWORTH: You're very welcome.
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