Report: N.Korea increases flight drills despite fuel pinchSeoul (AFP) Dec 29, 2010 - A North Korean jet has crashed as the country intensified air force exercises following its attack last month on a South Korean frontline island which sent tensions soaring, a newspaper said Wednesday. A MiG fighter disappeared off radar screens last week as the impoverished communist state held unusually extensive winter flight drills, the Korea JoongAng Daily said, quoting a military source. North Korea usually keeps flight drills to a minimum because of severe fuel shortages. The paper said there had been a 150 percent increase in the number of military drills involving all three services compared to December 2009. "It shows that the North Korean military has been very tense after the attack on Yeonpyeong Island," it quoted the source as saying. A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on military intelligence matters.
The North also carried out a corps-scale live-fire drill in response to a joint live-fire exercise by South Korea's army and air force last Thursday, Yonhap news agency said earlier this week. The news agency said the North has test-fired artillery and multiple-rocket launchers five times this month alone. The Korea JoongAng Daily said there have been frequent sightings of North Korean submarines near the disputed Yellow Sea border and artillery was moved nearer to the coast. The South has staged a series of military exercises, including one with the United States, since the North shelled the island near the Yellow Sea border on November 23 and killed four people, including two civilians.
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.