Skip to comments.North Korea fired up Yongbyon reactor ahead of 6-way talks: Asahi
Posted on 08/21/2005 3:16:51 AM PDT by HAL9000
TOKYO, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea began operating its nuclear reactor just before the fourth round of six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons ambitions started in late July, Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday.
In a dispatch from Washington, Asahi said North Korea resumed operations at its 5,000-kilowatt nuclear plant in Yongbyon in July, merely months after it announced that activities at the plant had been suspended in order to remove spent fuel rods out of it for reprocessing.
Asahi quoted U.S. officials as saying that intelligence satellites had detected water vapor being released from the plant's boiler room.
The United States raised the issue during the fourth round of multilateral talks in Beijing in late July, the U.S. official was quoted as saying. The talks unite the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
In Seoul, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official rebuffed the report that the North had resumed operations at the Yongbyon plant by saying, "It appears the report is not correct."
The official also dismissed another report that the reopening of the plant was discussed during the latest nuclear talks. "I understand no such thing was discussed in the fourth round," he said.
The Japanese daily quoted a U.S. intelligence official as saying North Korea must have filled the reactor with the spent fuel rods and started operating it again.
The Stalinist state said earlier this year it had taken more than 8,000 spent fuel rods from the reactor, which analysts say would contain enough plutonium to produce several nuclear warheads.
U.S. intelligence satellites also found signs that North Korea has resumed work on constructing a 50,000-kilowatt nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, the Japanese daily said.
Pyongyang demanded it be allowed to continue using its nuclear facilities peacefully to satisfy its energy needs during the latest round of talks, a position the U.S. would not compromise on as it pushed for complete denuclearization, citing the reclusive state's extraction of weapons-grade plutonium from its Yongbyon reactors in the past.
The fourth round recessed in early August and is scheduled to reopen in the week of Aug. 29.
What's new here?
No suprise. The population needed the (ahem) extra power from this (cough) peaceful facility to cook all the grass and treebark they've been harvesting.
Will the NK government ask for Western assistance if/when they blow the joint up, Chernobyl-style?