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Terrorism & Security

North Korea claims to be restarting nuclear reactor

The Yongbyon reactor could be operational again within a year.

By / September 19, 2008

A North Korean official says his country has begun to restore a key nuclear reactor, which would help North Korea to restart its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

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The BBC reports North Korean diplomat Hyun Hak-Bong said his nation was undergoing "thorough preparations" to restart the Yongbyon reactor, which it had been in the process of shutting down in accordance with the disarmament terms of the six-nation treaty it signed in 2007. Mr. Hyun said North Korea was restoring the reactor because the US has failed to fulfill its obligations in the treaty.

When asked when [the reactor] would be restored, he said: "You'll come to know soon." ...
Mr Hyun claimed the process of decommissioning the plutonium-producing reactor at the Yongbyon plant was 90% complete.
But he said Pyongyang would respond to the US by halting the process and "proceeding with works to restore [the reactor] to its original status".

North Korea, which is currently on the US list of countries which sponsor terrorism, destroyed the Yongbyon reactor's cooling tower in June in a highly publicized display of its willingness to halt its nuclear program, reported The Christian Science Monitor in June. North Korea had earlier said it created enough plutonium for several nuclear warheads using the plant.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a world security think tank, said Thursday it would take North Korea less than a year to completely restore the reactor.

CNN writes the reactor's restoration began earlier this month, according to South Korean press reports. At the time, US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe expressed concern about the disarmament process, saying the US thinks "North Korea is taking these steps because it has not been removed from the terrorism list." CNN adds Pyongyang is also at odds with Washington over the verification of North Korean disarmament. The US is insisting on a system to monitor the disarmament, but North Korea has so far refused to accept such a provision.

"The U.S. is gravely mistaken if it thinks it can make a house search in [North Korea] as it pleases just as it did in Iraq," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

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