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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs