North Korea announced Tuesday that it would restart all its nuclear facilities to bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal. North Korea has threatened the United States and its allies several times in the past few weeks. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un earlier said that the country might conduct nuclear strikes on the mainland U.S. and its overseas military bases. However, experts suggest that North Korea is still years away from building such advanced technology.
North’s General Department of Atomic Energy’s announcement comes after Kim Jong-un urged during a Central Committee meeting to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal. Now the nuclear enrichment plant in Yongbyon will be used to make nuclear weapons, says Korean Central News Agency. North Korea unveiled the plant for the first time to a team of American scholars in 2010. Back then, North Korea had assured that the complex will be used to generate electricity.
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The graphite-moderated reactor at Yongbyon was a key source of plutonium for North Korea before it was closed in 2007 under a nuclear disarmament agreement with the United States. Experts believe that North Korea has extracted enough plutonium from the plant to make 6-8 nuclear bombs. The country might have used some of plutonium for its third nuclear test in February.
The restart of plutonium reactor and uranium enrichment plant adds to growing American and South Korean concerns. Now the country will have two fuel sources to make atomic bombs – highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman of China, the main ally of North Korea, said that China feels “regretful” about North Korea’s announcement. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that it was essential for the country to have “permanent” nuclear weapons for self-defense so that North Korea could focus completely on its economic development. He said the weapons will act as a strong deterrent against war.
In 2008, North Korea had demolished the cooling tower of its Yongbyon reactor in favor of the 2007 agreement with the United States. But the deal was short-lived due to nuclear inspection differences between the U.S. and North Korea. Now the country is gearing up to restart the old one and build a new reactor in the Yongbyon complex.
The United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon said that the country has “gone too far.” Ban Ki-moon, who is a former South Korean foreign minister, feared that developments in North Korea could lead to war.