SEOUL: North Korea announced today it has produced more plutonium for its atomic weapons programme, a day after threatening to “go its own way” unless Washington agrees to direct talks on the nuclear standoff.
The isolated communist country had “successfully completed reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods by the end of August” at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, the official Korean Central News Agency said.
“Noticeable successes have been made in turning the extracted plutonium weapon-grade for the purpose of bolstering up the nuclear deterrent,” it said.
The comments indicated growing impatience at Washington’s delay in accepting Pyongyang’s offer of high-level bilateral talks.
On Monday, its foreign ministry pressed the United States to agree to such talks, and said these could lead to a resumption of stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations. “If the US is not ready to sit at a negotiating table with the DPRK (North Korea), it will go its own way,” the ministry added.
Experts believe the 8,000 spent reactor fuel rods could produce enough plutonium for one or two nuclear bombs, in addition to the North’s current stockpile which could perhaps be used to create six to eight weapons.
The North quit the six-party talks in April after the United Nations censured its long-range rocket launch, and vowed to restart the nuclear programme which it shut down under a 2007 six-party pact.
It conducted an atomic weapons test in May, the second since 2006.
In September, the North also said it was in the final stages of an experimental highly enriched uranium programme — a second way to make atomic weapons.
KCNA in a separate report today said the North was working hard to expand production of mineral resources including uranium. It said the uranium was intended to fuel a light-water reactor which is to be constructed. Seoul officials quoted by Yonhap news agency confirmed on Monday that the North has apparently reopened the plutonium reprocessing plant.