North Korea says it is restarting its nuclear facilities, in order to
reprocess weapons-grade material. The move deals another serious blow
to diplomacy aimed at ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons,
and aggravates high tensions in the region.
alarmed the world Saturday with an announcement it was beginning to
reprocess spent fuel rods from its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon.
North Korean news presenter reads a Foreign Ministry statement that
says reprocessing the fuel rods will improve North Korea's nuclear
deterrent, even as hostile nations ratchet up their military threat.
Korea ejected international nuclear inspectors last week, after
announcing its withdrawal from "useless" multinational
talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs. That move was a
response to a United Nations statement condemning the North's long
range rocket launch two weeks ago.
South Korean officials say
they are not surprised by North Korea's decision. However, Foreign
Minister Yu Myung-hwan announced this week that a decision to reprocess
nuclear materials would lead to more sanctions by the United Nations.
The United Nations imposed sanctions Friday on three North Korean companies for aiding Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs.
Mining Development Trading Corporation, Korea Ryonbong General
Corporation and Tanchon Commercial Bank were blacklisted by the U.N.
sanctions committee under a 2006 resolution passed after North Korea
conducted its first nuclear weapons test.
North Korea is
believed to have between five and ten nuclear weapons. Nuclear experts
say their stockpile of unprocessed fuel rods is likely to yield enough
weapons-grade material for at least one more explosive device.
Korea marked the 77th anniversary of its military Saturday. The
country's main official newspaper announced it would deal a "merciless
strike" against the United States and its allies if they touch "even an
inch" of North Korean territory.
The current tensions are
complicated by North Korea's detention of two American journalists and
a South Korean executive on political charges.