A high-ranking North Korean defector said Friday that the Communist state has a secret nuclear research center that could produce nuclear weapons by 1993.
The comments by Ko Young Hwan, the first North Korean diplomat known to have defected to South Korea, go far toward confirming international fears of North Korea's capability to produce nuclear arms.
"North Korean leaders regard nuclear weapons as the last means they can resort to to protect their system, and I think they are one or two years away from having one," Ko told a news conference.
Ko, 38, defected alone in May because he was disenchanted with the Communist system, according to a South Korean statement.
He had served as an interpreter to Communist leader Kim Il Sung and was most recently a first secretary at the North Korean Embassy in the Congo in Africa.