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Pyongyang prepares to restart Yongbyon reactor

Latest update : 2008-09-20

North Korea is preparing to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor in protest at Washington's refusal to drop it from a terrorism blacklist, amid a deadlock in international disarmament talks.

North Korea is preparing to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor amid a deadlock in international disarmament talks, a Pyongyang official said Friday.
   
"We are making thorough preparations to restore (nuclear facilities)," said foreign ministry official Hyon Hak-Bong.
   
"You may say we have already started work to restore them," he told reporters at the border truce village of Panmunjom before the start of talks between the two Koreas on energy aid.
   
North Korea said last month it had stopped disabling the plutonium-producing reactor and other plants and would consider restoring them, in protest at Washington' refusal to drop it from a terrorism blacklist.
   
The North's negotiating partners have reported that equipment was being moved back to the site.
   
Asked by reporters when the reactor would be restarted, Hyon replied:  "You'll come to know soon."
   
Hyon, deputy chief of the foreign ministry's US affairs bureau, did not elaborate.
   
As part of a six-nation aid-for-disarmament agreement, the North last November began disabling its Yongbyon plants.
   
In return the five negotiating partners -- South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia -- promised to provide one million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent energy assistance to the impoverished communist state.
   
In June the North handed over a list of its nuclear programmes and facilities and the United States began the process of removing it from a terrorism blacklist.
   
But Washington says it will not take the final step until the North agrees on ways to verify its nuclear declaration.
   
On August 26 the North announced that in protest it had halted disablement work and would consider restarting the reactor.
   
Nearly half of the promised energy aid has been delivered. Officials from the two Koreas were meeting Friday to discuss further deliveries.
   
Hwang Joon-Kook, head of the South Korean foreign ministry's North Korean nuclear issue bureau, heads the Seoul delegation.
   
In London the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Thursday that North Korea could put its nuclear programme back on track in less than a year.
   
Uncertainty over the health of leader Kim Jong-Il means its stalemate with Washington over its nuclear programme is likely to continue, it added.
   
"Diplomatic efforts to stem the nuclear proliferation challenges posed by Iran and North Korea are both deadlocked," IISS chief John Chipman said.
   
"It will take North Korea less than one year to undo the steps that up until August it was taking to disable its declared nuclear facilities."

Date created : 2008-09-19

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