North Korea “restarts operations” at nuclear reactor

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North Korea said Tuesday it had restarted operations at its nuclear complex, reports said.

A uranium enrichment plant and a 5-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon complex had been readjusted as part of many “innovations,” Yonhap News Agency reported, quoting North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.

Pyongyang has been “steadily improving the levels of nuclear weapons with various missions in quality and quantity,” an unnamed director of the North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute said, according to KCNA.

The announcement came amid speculation in Seoul over a possible long-range missile launch on October 10 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said any such launch would be a “serious provocation, a military threat and a violation of UN resolutions,” Yonhap reported.

Pyongyang said Monday that it would launch an earth observation satellite at a time of its choosing, and that “the world will clearly see a series of satellites of Songun Korea [North Korea] soaring into the sky at the times and locations determined by the WPK [Workers’ Party of Korea] Central Committee.”

In Seoul, President Park Geun Hye and visiting EU President Donald Tusk called on Pyongyang Tuesday to comply with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and refrain from further provocation.

The nuclear announcement and speculation over a rocket launch has ratcheted up tension once more between the two Koreas, which are still technically at war after the Korean War of 1950-53.

In late August, the two neighbours agreed to defuse tensions in emergency talks following a surge in incidents across their border, including artillery firing, a landmine explosion and propaganda broadcasts.

The United States called on North Korea to “refrain from irresponsible provocation that aggravate regional tensions” and instead abide by international commitments on its nuclear programme.

“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state, and that’s why we urge North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

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