WASHINGTON - NORTH Korea got a failing grade, with Iran and Syria not far behind, in the first nuclear arms control report card released on Wednesday by the independent US-based Arms Control Association (ACA).

'North Korea, which has violated nearly every non-proliferation and disarmament standard over the past two years, warrants an overall grade of 'F',' ACA executive director Daryl Kimball told reporters.

North Korea failed all but three of the 10 equally-weighted categories used to calculate the overall grade. In the three areas that Pyongyang didn't fail - reducing nuclear weapons alert levels, meeting multilateral nuclear security commitments, and honouring commitments to prevent nuclear terrorism and the trafficking of nuclear material - it got a 'D', one step up from failure.

Iran and Syria, which dont't have nuclear arms but which are being investigated by international bodies for suspected nuclear weapons activities, failed to meet safeguard standards covering all nuclear activities, including peaceful ones, set by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

They also fell short on basic nuclear export controls, each earning a grade of 'D.' Eight countries with nuclear weapons were also graded in the report, but none received a top mark of 'A.' Britain, France and the United States got Bs, China and Russia got B-minuses; India got a C-plus, and Israel and Pakistan got C-minuses.

Out of the five countries that got Bs or B-minuses, only China failed one 'subject', getting an F for moves to expand its nuclear force. China is believed to have around 240 nuclear warheads although the exact size of its nuclear arsenal is not known, the report says.

N.Korea gets failing grade