North Korea prepares to restart nuclear reactor

Other News Materials 19 September 2008 09:19 (UTC +04:00)

North Korea said Friday it wanted to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor as disarmament talks stalled.

The controversial reactor's restart was under preparation, the official South Korean Yonhap news agency quoted a North Korean official as saying.

Foreign ministry official Hyon Hak-Bong said during energy aid talks in the border truce village Panmunjom that Pyongyang was making "thorough preparations" to restore nuclear facilities.

"You may say we have already started work to restore them," he added.

North Korea, annoyed as the United States did not - as agreed in disarmament talks earlier this year - remove the communist state from its terrorism blacklist, stopped disabling the plutonium-producing reactor in late August and threatened to restart its nuclear weapons programme.

The United States made Pyongyang's agreement to verification of its disablement a prerequisite for ending some of its sanctions. At six-nation disarmament talks in November, North Korea agreed to disable its nuclear weapons programme.

South Korea, one partner in the six-party talks, said in early September that North Korea had started to rebuild its previously disabled nuclear facilities.

Uncertainty over the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who has not been seen in public for months, adds to the stalemate.

Pyongyang exploded a nuclear device in October 2006. Analysts said it would take North Korea less than one year to rebuild what has been dismantled, dpa reported.