07/01/2005, 00.00
NORTH KOREA
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North Korea resumes construction of two nuclear reactors

The move could be a "warning" to the international community; enough plutonium could be produced for six atomic bombs.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea has resumed construction work on two nuclear reactors which had been suspended back in 1994. Japanese daily, Nihon Keizai, carried the news, citing anonymous United States government sources: according to the sources, the charges can be confirmed by data from satellite spies.

The reactors in question are one in Yongbyon, capable of giving off 50,000kw of energy and another in Taechon of 200,000kw: both buildings are situated in the north of the country in a highly militarized zone. The first – 90km north of the capital – was reactivated, even if not completely, in March 2005. According to international experts, it could produce enough plutonium for around six atomic bombs.

Construction of the reactors was suspended 11 years ago in exchange for food and energy aid: two water plants capable of meeting North Korea's energy demands were set up.

According to political analysts, the North Korean move is a "warning" to the international community and a "show of how easy it is for North Korea to resume construction of atomic weapons". North Korea has at least eight atomic missiles but it is not clear is they can be fitted inside warheads. In any case, many military experts say Pyongyang possess a large number of chemical and biological weapons apart from conventional arms.

Pyongyang's move, if confirmed, is another step away from the revival of six-nation nuclear talks – negotiations between the USA, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China and Russia about nuclear disarmament. The country left the negotiating table after the third round of talks in June 2004. On 10 February 2005, the North Korean regime officially confirmed that it had an atomic arsenal available and that it intended to expand it.

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