The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) put into operation a new uranium enrichment facility thus doubling its capacity of making nuclear fuel for atomic bombs, TASS reported referring to a senior South Korean official.
According to the daily, the new facility capable of producing weapons-grade uranium is located within the Yongbyon nuclear complex, which is the center of the North Korean nuclear program.
"In 2012, the North started building a new facility next to its old uranium plant, about 120 meters long and 15 meters wide," the daily quoted the source, who is in charge of handling North Korean intelligence issues, as saying.
"The new facility is about the same size as the old one," the source said. "It recently completed construction and has started operation."
According to the daily, the new uranium enrichment facility was built next to the previous facility, which in 2010 was shown to a visiting scientist from the United States. Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Siegfried S. Hecker was invited in 2010 to visit Yongbyon facility, where he saw about 2,000 gas centrifuges intended for uranium enrichment.
JoonAng Ilbo reported that infrared cameras used by the South Korean and US intelligence services detected emitting heat from centrifuges installed at the new uranium enrichment facility, which could mean that the plant was put into operation.
"We have to monitor a little longer to see if the new plant actually started producing weapons-grade materials, but it is our assessment that it is in operation," the source said.
The new facility at the issue is of about the same size as the previous one and, according to the source, it boasts up to 2,000 gas centrifuges.
In mid-October the DPRK National Committee's for Peace stated that the country would be strengthening its nuclear deterrence potential and keeping a close watch on United States policies.
The statement came in the wake of a published book of memoirs by Leon Panetta, in which the former Pentagon chief acknowledged that the United States might have used nuclear weapons against North Korea in 2010-2011 in case of an aggravation of the situation in the Korean Peninsula.
According to the statement, Panetta "has for the first time acknowledged the existence of a scenario involving the use of nuclear weapons in the peninsula," thereby confirming the aggressive nature of US policies.
The Committee said it believed that on the pretext of growing military threat from North Korea Washington was "trying to prevent an improvement in inter-Korean relations, provide excuses for its plans for deploying mobile air defense complexes THAAD in South Korea and thereby complete preparations for nuclear war."
The statement also said that Pyongyang believed "the DPRK government made a very reasonable decision to create the country's own nuclear weapons for self-defense."
The United States and North Korea have no diplomatic relations. Washington's interests in Pyongyang are represented by the embassy of Sweden. The Korean War of 1950-1953 ended with the conclusion of an armistice agreement. Formally, the United States and North Korea are in a state of war and political tensions remain high.