Report: North Korea says it’s resumed plutonium production

TOKYO, Aug. 17 (UPI) — North Korea‘s production of plutonium is ongoing and Pyongyang has no intention of bringing an end to its nuclear tests, Japanese news media reported Wednesday.

North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute, which presides over the operation of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, said in a written text sent to Kyodo news agency that the North has “reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor.”

The North Korean agency did not report the quantity of plutonium or enriched uranium it has produced, but said the production is on schedule.

Continued operations at Yongbyon have raised concerns in the international community.

In June, Ambassador Henry Ensher at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria, said the proliferation of activities at Yongbyon poses a grave threat to international peace and security.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in February North Korea’s nuclear capabilities should not be underestimated and that Yongbyon, shut down in 2007, was in operation.

The resumption of reprocessing operations at the site means Pyongyang should be able to manufacture more weapons of mass destruction despite being under heavy sanctions, according to Kyodo.

The announcement comes at a time when tensions have not subsided between North Korea and its neighbors South Korea and Japan.

Japan has told its Self-Defense Forces to shoot down North Korean missiles at any time.

Tokyo and Pyongyang have been experiencing a low point in relations due to multiple issues, including the unresolved case of abducted Japanese citizens and North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile that reached Japanese territorial waters on Aug. 3.

But North Korea issued a statement in the Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday, vowing vengeance for crimes committed during Japan’s colonization of Korea.

In the statement, North Korea blamed Japan for the division of the peninsula and criticized Tokyo for a lack of a “sincere attitude” regarding atonement.

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