North Korea to Restart Yongbyon Nuclear Reactor, U.S. Deploys Warship off South Korea

North Korea will restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, its official KCNA news service announced on Tuesday.

The move could enable the reactor to relelase more plutonium to bolster its atomic stockpile for use in nuclear weapons. Photo: Tom Brandt/Flickr

North Korea announced Tuesday that it plans to restart all mothballed facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, a move which raises further tensions by near daily warlike threats against the United States and South Korea.

The reactor was shut down five years ago as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled, The Huffington Post reports.

A spokesperson for the General Department of Atomic Energy confirmed that the facilities will be restarted are a 5 megawatt reactor, which “generates spent fuel rods laced with plutonium and is the core of the Yongbyon nuclear complex.”

The reactor, at his maximum capacity churnes out one atomic bomb worth of plutonium — the most common fuel in nuclear weapons — a year.

According to estimates from the Institute for Science and International Security from late 2012, “North Korea could have enough weapons grade uranium for 21-32 nuclear weapons by 2016 if it used one centrifuge at its Yongbyon nuclear plant to enrich uranium to weapons-grade.”

“The General Department of Atomic Energy…decided to adjust and alter the uses of the existing nuclear facilities, to begin with,” KCNA reported.

The taken decision is predicted to boost fears in Washington and among its allies about the North’s push for nuclear missiles that can reach the United States, technology it is not currently believed to have.

Earlier today, KCNA released a statement which comes by Kim and that appeared to dial down the prospects of a direct confrontation with America as he singled out that nuclear weapons would ensure the country’s safety as a deterrent.

“Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty,” Kim said. “It is on the basis of a strong nuclear strength that peace and prosperity can exist and so can the happiness of people’s lives.”

The news comes the next day after the United States sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea in order to defend Seoul in the wake of threats from its agressive neighbour.

The U.S. military command in South Korea explained the move saying in a statement that the U.S. urged North Korea to restrain itself.

“(North Korea) will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” the statement reads.

A few days ago the North announced that it entered  “state of war” against South Korea, soon after Kim Jong-un said he would “settle accounts” with Washington for threatening him with bomb attack.

“As of now, inter-Korea relations enter a state of war and all matters between the two Koreas will be handled according to wartime protocol,” the North said in a joint statement attributed to all government bodies and institutions.

“From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly,” a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency said at the time.

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