North Korea: Uranium Program Near Completion

North Korea said on Friday it had successfully tested uranium enrichment and was closer to a second way of building nuclear arms, a move seen as a new tactic to put pressure on the international community.

Experts said the North was still some time away from perfecting the technology of obtaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) needed to build nuclear weapons but there was ample evidence to suggest work was under way, Reuters informs.

“We are prepared for both dialogue and sanctions,” the official Korean Central News Agency said, citing a letter sent to the United Nations Security Council. “If some permanent members of the UNSC wish to put sanctions first before dialogue, we would respond with bolstering our nuclear deterrence.”

The ultimatum may signal Kim Jong Il’s regime is trying to improve its hand before rejoining talks to dismantle the nuclear program after vowing to abandon them forever. In the past month North Korea has indicated its willingness to make concessions by releasing two detained U.S. journalists and several South Korean citizens, and sending a delegation to the South, reports Bloomberg.

The Security Council slapped tough sanctions on North Korea for conducting an underground nuclear test in May.

The North said it does not oppose the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula , but warned it would be left with no choice but to take "yet stronger self-defensive countermeasures" if the standoff continues. It did not elaborate on possible countermeasures.

Analysts said the North appears to be trying to add urgency to the standoff to get Washington into one-on-one talks.

"I think this is a 'let's-have-direct talks' message," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies . "The North is saying that the more delayed U.S.-North Korea talks are, the greater its nuclear capabilities will become," The Associated Press reports.