A pop song celebrating a North Korean hero. The lyrics, anything we put our minds to, it can create, and the hero they're referring to is this gray box, the computer numerical control machine, or CNC for short. They're widely available in factories around the world. And while they might not look like much, experts say they're a key feature of Kim Jong-un's missile and nueclear weapons program.
As Reuter's James Pearson explains.>> Well much like a 3D printer, which you can use to print any object, CNC machines, which been around for a very long time, can be used to drill precision parts. Now usually that's used in normal manufacturing, in the North Korean case issue is that, you can use them to make missile nose cones and centrifuges.
And things that can actually boost the banned nuclear missile programs.>> CNC machines weren't designed to help make weapons of mass destruction. They're set up to produce parts for anything from cars, to clothes, to mobile phones. Experts say North Korea probably started fine tuning its own version in the early 90s, after stripping down CNCs imported from the Soviet Union and reverse engineering them.
By 2009, the machines started showing up in North Korean propaganda and that's when arms experts noticed something alarming. They seem to be producing aluminum tubes, a key component in building nuclear weapons. The factory behind North Korea's homemade machines was blacklisted by the UN four years ago, but by then it was practically too late.
Pyongyang now has more than 15,000 CNCs, and on top of that, US officials suspect it also has the ability to produce its own missile engines.>> Because of CNC machines you can develop more or less anything, North Korea's actually not allowed to import certain kinds of CNC machines.
It had managed to do so. One issue is that people aren't always aware that these things, which have a primarily commercial and civilian use, can also be used for the banned nuclear and missile programs.>> Experts say that means the current sanctions aimed at stopping Pyongyang's weapons program are effectively meaningless.
And as its theme song says, North Korea's mechanical hero seems precisely geared towards Kim Jong-un's ultimate ambition, a missile that can reach the United States.