North Korea said on Tuesday that it will restart a nuclear plant that can process enough plutonium to make a bomb, further escalating its warlike rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea.
North Korea in a statement issued through the state’s official news agency said it will restart its nuclear facilities in Nyongbyon nuclear complex “without delay.”
North Korea had mothballed its nuclear reactors at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex in 2007, as part of a nuclear disarmament deal.
A KCNA statement quoting an unidentified spokesman for the North's General Department of Atomic Energy said scientists will resume work at a uranium enrichment facility and at a 5 MW graphite-moderated reactor. Experts estimate that if fully functional, the nuclear facilities in the complex can produce a bomb’s worth of plutonium -- most commonly used fuel in nuclear weapons -- in a year’s time.
The North said it is restarting the nuclear reactor to solve the power shortage in the country and also for "bolstering up the nuclear armed force both in quality and quantity."
North’s move to restart the nuclear reactors is likely to mount concerns in the U.S. and South Korea, as the move would enable the North to move ahead with its plan to create nuclear weapons small enough to mount on a missile.
The move was announced hours after the U.S. dispatched two F-22 fighter jets, a floating radar platform and a 505-foot guided-missile destroyer from its port in Japan to South Korea to enable it to counter attacks from the North.
However, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that they do not see any unusual activity or change in the military posture of North Korea despite threats and recent rhetoric coming from its leadership.
“I would note that despite the harsh rhetoric we’re hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces,” Carney said, as reported by the Press Trust of India.
Nevertheless, the U.S. is taking the threat coming from North Korea seriously. “We take this seriously. I’ve said in the past. We are vigilant and we are monitoring the Korean situation very diligently,” Carney added.
China, South Korea Express Regret Over North’s Decision To Restart Reactors
China's Foreign Ministry expressed regret Tuesday on North Korea’s decision to restart all nuclear facilities. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the comments at a daily news briefing, according to a Straits Times report.
Meanwhile, South Korea's foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday expressed "deep regrets" over North Korea's announcement to resume nuclear facilities, urging the North to adhere to international commitments and agreements.
"If the report is true, it's deeply regrettable," spokesman Cho Tai Young said during a news briefing, Kyodo News reported.