According to North Korea’s state-run news agency, it reported on Tuesday that North Korea has restarted its atomic bomb fuel production plants, a move that pushes Pyongyang further toward a standoff with Washington and its allies.
The secretive state said it is fully ready to use nuclear weapons against the United States “and other hostile forces” at any time if they “persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the (North) and behave mischievously.”
The North said in state media that its plutonium and highly enriched uranium facilities at the main Nyongbyon nuclear complex had been “rearranged, changed or readjusted and they started normal operation.”
The announcement follows a warning Monday by Pyongyang that it is ready to launch “satellites” — which the West considers banned long-range missiles — aboard long-range rockets to mark the ruling communist party’s anniversary next month.
The 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party is Oct. 10.
The director of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration told Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency that scientists were pushing forward on a final development phase for a new earth observation satellite for weather forecasts.
On Tuesday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said a rocket launch will be a “serious provocation,” a military threat and a violation of United Nations resolutions, Yonhap reported.
“South Korea and the United States are jointly watching for all possibilities with regard to North Korea’s (potential) long-range missile launch,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Kim Min-seok, according to the news agency. “So far, no particular signs have been seen.”
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “North Korea should refrain from irresponsible provocation that aggravate regional tensions.”
He said the United States and other nations will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state. “We urge North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security. And focus instead on fulfilling it’s international obligations and commitments,” he said.
North Korea has spent decades trying to perfect a multistage, long-range rocket. After several failures, it put its first satellite into space with a long-range rocket launched in late 2012. The U.N. said it was a banned test of ballistic-missile technology and imposed sanctions. Experts say that ballistic missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology.
An angry North Korea then conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013, inviting further international condemnation and sanctions. Washington sees North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as a threat to world security and to its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea.