TOKYO: Former US defence chief William Perry said North Korea was capable of producing one nuclear bomb a year and that Washington should consider high-level talks to defuse tension, in an interview published Wednesday.
Perry, who served as defence secretary under president Bill Clinton, told the Nikkei daily the US government should review its policies towards North Korea and impose economic sanctions to reiterate its stance against Pyongyang's nuclear programmes.
Then, Washington should coordinate policies with Seoul and Tokyo before eventually sending a special envoy for direct talks with Pyongyang, Perry told the Nikkei.
Perry suggested former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former US senator Sam Nunn, an expert on nuclear arms reduction, as possible candidates for such talks, the Nikkei said.
The interview was released in Japanese, with no original English text immediately available.
If North Korea dedicated all of its recently unveiled uranium enrichment facility to making weapons-grade fuel, it could build one nuclear bomb a year, Perry told the paper.
Perry said he had been briefed by American scientist Siegfried Hecker, who recently toured a new uranium enrichment plant with 2,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex.
The facility is likely designed for making fuel for a civilian reactor and not bombs, but there is no way to confirm whether North Korea has another facility to build nuclear weapons, Perry said.
The former defence chief said he still believed in diplomatic solutions to the North Korean crisis.
Channel News Asia