N Korea vows to restart nuclear reactor

North Korea said on Tuesday it would escalate production of nuclear weapons material, including restarting a long-shuttered plutonium reactor, in what outsiders see as Pyongyang’s latest attempt to extract US concessions by raising fears of war. A spokesman for the North’s general department of atomic energy said scientists would quickly begin work “readjusting and restarting” a uranium enrichment plant and a graphite-moderated, 5-MW reactor that could produce a bomb’s worth of plutonium each year.

Experts considered the uranium announcement to be a public declaration from Pyongyang that it will make highly enriched uranium that could be used for bomb fuel. The plutonium reactor began operations in 1986 but was shutdown in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled. It wasn’t immediately clear if North Korea had already begun work to restart facilities at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex. Experts estimate it could take anywhere from three months to a year to reactivate the reactor.

The announcement will boost concerns in Washington and among its allies about North Korea’s timetable for building a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the United States, although it is still believed to be years away from developing that technology. The nuclear vows and a rising tide of threats in recent weeks are seen as efforts by Pyongyang to force disarmament for aid talks with Washington and to increase domestic loyalty to young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by portraying him as a powerful military commander.

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UN imposes tough curbs on N Korea

The UN Security Council on Thursday voted unanimously for tough new sanctions against North Korea for its latest nuclear test, ignoring threats by the nutty nation to nuke the US. Universally regarded as a psychotic basket case, North Korea saw its closest patron China join hands with the US to draft a resolution aimed at telling Pyongyang that the international community condemns its ballistic missile and nuclear tests and its repeated violation of Security Council resolutions.

However, both Washington and Beijing remained quiet on Pakistan, the country partly responsible for North Korea’s advances in nuclear weaponry in exchange for ballistic missile technology. Like North Korea, Pakistan too is seen as building a national narrative based on paranoia and conspiracy theories. But the US is unwilling to confront it because of its perceived exigencies in Afghanistan and China prefers not to because of its usefulness against India and US.

On Wednesday, North Korea was at its bizarre best, threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the US because it is using its “puppet” South Korea to prepare for denuclearizing Pyongyang. “Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest,” North Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official news agency.

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N Korea vows to end truce with South

North Korea vowed on Tuesday to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean war, citing a US-led push for punishing UN sanctions over its recent nuclear test and ongoing US-South Korean joint military drills. Without elaborating, the Korean People’s Army supreme command warned of “surgical strikes” meant to unify the divided Korean Peninsula and of an indigenous, “precision nuclear striking tool”. The statement came amid reports that Washington and North Korean ally Beijing have approved a draft of a UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions in response to North Korea’s February 12 nuclear test. The draft is expected to be circulated at the UN this week.

Heated military rhetoric is common from North Korea when tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula and during US-South Korean war games, but this latest statement is unusually specific. It threatens to block a communications line between North Korea and the US at the border village separating the two Koreas, and to nullify the 60-year-old Korean war armistice agreement on March 11, when two weeks of US-South Korean military drills will draw 10,000 South and 3,500 US forces.

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