News / Asia

North Korea to Restart Yongbyon Nuclear Reactor

In this photo released by U.S. researchers who visited North Korea, pits from which dissolver tanks for uranium ore concentrate have been removed are seen at the Yongbyon Nuclear Center in North Korea, Feb. 14, 2008.
In this photo released by U.S. researchers who visited North Korea, pits from which dissolver tanks for uranium ore concentrate have been removed are seen at the Yongbyon Nuclear Center in North Korea, Feb. 14, 2008.
North Korea says it is restarting nuclear operations at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, adding to already heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

x
According to North Korean state media, a spokesman for the country's atomic energy department says it will begin, without delay, work to restart the uranium enrichment plant and the five megawatt graphite moderated reactor.

The action is being taken as part of the new “strategic line” announced by leader Kim Jong Un of “simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of nuclear armed forces.”

Watch related video:

Related video of Korean peninsula tensionsi
X
April 02, 2013 4:36 PM
North Korea says it is restarting operations at a shuttered plutonium nuclear reactor and hinted at further enrichment of uranium, adding to already heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea, China express regrets

In South Korea, foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young called the North Korean announcement "truly regrettable," adding that North Korea should keep its promises and agreements and stick to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

China Tuesday also voiced its concern. "We have noticed the remarks of the DPRK and express our regrets," Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.  "We call on the relevant parties to keep calm and exercise restraint."

The North's Yongbyon facility was shuttered under an agreement reached in 2007 at six-party talks including the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. North Korea destroyed the plant's cooling tower the next year and would presumably need to rebuild it before the reactor could be restarted.

Refurbishing the facility would allow North Korea to make nuclear weapons by extracting plutonium from highly radioactive fuel rods that are no longer usable for making electricity.

Scientists estimate the reactor would need to run for about one year before North Korea could extract enough plutonium for one additional nuclear weapon.

Tensions Rising on Korean Peninsula

  • February 12: North Korea carries out third nuclear test
  • March 27: North Korea cuts military hotline with South Korea
  • March 28: U.S. B-2 bombers fly over Korean peninsula
  • March 30: North Korea says it has entered a "state of war" with South Korea
  • April 3: North Korea blocks South Korean workers from Kaesong
  • April 4: North Korea moves a missile to its east coast
  • April 9: North Korea urges foreigners to leave the South.  The U.S. and South Korea raise alert level
  • April 14: US Secretary of State John Kerry offers talks with Pyongyang if it moves to scrap nuclear weapons
  • April 16: North Korea issues threats after anti-Pyongyang protests in Seoul
  • April 29: North Korea holds back seven South Koreans at Kaesong
  • April 30: North Korea sentences American to 15 years hard labor for hostile acts
  • May 20: North Korea fires projectiles for a consecutive third day
  • May 24: North Korean envoy wraps up China visit for talks on Korean tensions
  • June 7: South Korea accepts Pyongyang's offer of talks on Kaesong and other issues
South Korea, US militaries making preparations for deterrence

Before the announcement from Pyongyang Tuesday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye held an unscheduled security meeting with her defense and unification ministers and national intelligence chief.

Presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung says the president has decreed that it will be necessary to strongly punish North Korea, should it provoke.  But, Yoon says it is more important to have strong diplomatic and military deterrence to ensure that North Korea does nothing provocative.

The statement was made just minutes before the announcement from Pyongyang about the Yongbyon nuclear facility.

South Korea says it is keeping a close eye on North Korea's Tongchang-ri launch site.  Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters Tuesday there appeared to be no signs of an imminent missile launch. But, what activities South Korea has detected at the site are secret and cannot be revealed.

Meanwhile, the United States is deploying anti-missile ships to back up its public statements that it takes the continuing military threats from North Korea very seriously. Military sources say the U.S. Navy's Seventh fleet has moved the USS McCain to a position off the southwestern coast of South Korea.  

Another destroyer, the USS Decatur, is reported to be on the way to the Korean peninsula, along with a sea-based X-band radar platform that can track possible missile launches.

A Defense Department official called this "a prudent move that provides greater missile defense options, should they become necessary."

The positioning of the navy vessels follows the publicized simulated bombing runs of U.S. Air Force B-52 and B-2 bombers as part of the annual Foal Eagle joint exercise with South Korea's military.

On Sunday, a pair of F-22 Raptors, the Air Force's premier stealth fighter jets, flew from Okinawa, Japan. The Pentagon says they are on now on “static display” at Osan Air Base in South Korea as part of “alliance assurance.”

Military sources in Washington and Seoul say they have detected no mobilization of North Korea's forces, despite the near-daily rhetoric from Pyongyang that its forces are poised for an open conflict.

In a rare “special statement” the North declared relations with the South in a “state of war,” March 30.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is scheduled to hold his first talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, Tuesday. Secretary Kerry is scheduled to travel to South Korea, later this month.

Additional reporting by Shannon Van Sant in Beijing

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Observer from: Southeastasia
April 03, 2013 11:22 AM
This young "leader" finds life boring and meaningless, so he is trying to find some thrill by bullying South Korea and the US. He is also hungry for recognition. If Obama invites him to Washington, he will gain some recognition, and he will be more contented.

by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
April 02, 2013 6:34 AM
If they start that plant up? Let them eat plutonium. Give them nothing.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More