North Korea to restart Yongbyon nuclear reactor | News | DW | 02.04.2013
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North Korea to restart Yongbyon nuclear reactor

North Korea has announced it will restart operations at all nuclear facilities including its shuttered Yongbyon nuclear reactor. Meanwhile, the country's leader has called nuclear weapons a "reliable" deterrent.

A spokesman for North Korea's General Department of Atomic Energy said the nuclear reactors were being rebuilt and restarted in line with a policy of "bolstering the nuclear armed force both in quality and quantity" as well as solving "acute" electricity shortages, according to the official KCNA news agency.

Among the facilities to become operational is the five-megawatt, graphite-moderated Yongbyon nuclear reactor which closed in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled.

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North Korea to restart nuclear reactor

The reactor was the sole source of plutonium for Pyongyang's atomic weapons program. The country's remaining plutonium stockpile is believed to be enough for four to eight bombs. When fully operational, the reactor is capable of churning out enough plutonium in a year to produce one nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un has reiterated the assertion that his country's nuclear weapons are a "reliable" deterrent and a way to secure the future.

"Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty," he said in a speech to the central committee meeting of the ruling Workers Party of Korea on Sunday, according to KCNA.

Kim Jong Un, who took office in December 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, toned down hostile rhetoric in the speech which also implied the isolated country was shifting its focus to development.

Pyongyang has launched relentless verbal threats against the United States and South Korea since the United Nations Security Council imposed fresh sanctions against the country following its February nuclear test.

Also at the Workers Party of Korea conference, Pak Pong-Ju was appointed as new premier and will return for his second stint in the post.

Pak served as North Korea's prime minister from 2003 to 2007. He was suspended from office in 2006 and subsequently sacked the following year. Reports at the time suggested a government and military backlash when Pak attempted market reforms aiming to provide state companies with greater autonomy and gradually reduce state rationing of food.

hc/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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