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UN agency says North Korea appears to have re-started nuclear reactor



PHOTO: Flickr/Janne Wittoeck

A UN atomic agency has described as “deeply troubling” the news that North Korea seems to have re-started its plutonium-producing reactor. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the re-starting of the nuclear reactor at the Yongbyon complex could mean the regime is expanding its arsenal of banned weapons.

“Since early July, there have been indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation of the reactor.”

According to an AFP report, the reactor had appeared inactive since December 2018, with the UN agency forced to monitor it from outside North Korea, after being kicked out in 2009. The news of the reactor being re-started comes while relations between Pyongyang and Washington are at an impasse.

During Donald Trump’s US presidency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had offered to dismantle some of the Yongbyon complex in return for the lifting of sanctions but his offer was rejected. The reclusive country is under a number of hard-hitting international sanctions as a result of its banned weapons programme.

According to the AFP report, a senior official from the US State Department says there is now an urgent need for talks with North Korea to resume.

“This report underscores the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy so we can achieve the complete de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. We continue to seek dialogue so we can address this reported activity and the full range of issues related to de-nuclearisation.”

The administration led by US president Joe Biden has spoken of the need for a “practical, calibrated approach” to encourage North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. However, North Korea has never given any indication it might do so and there have been no further talks since talks between Trump and Kim collapsed in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2019.



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