By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) – South Korea admitted Wednesday that it is seriously concerned about North Korea’s alleged return to nuclear reprocessing, as the authoritarian state continues to ignore global calls to abandon its weapon ambitions.
Multiple reports this week have pointed to the North’s resumption of reprocessing as a means to obtain a steady supply of plutonium to support its self-proclaimed status as a responsible nuclear weapons state -- despite being hampered by toughened United Nations sanctions after carrying out a fourth ever nuclear test in January.
The International Atomic Energy Agency stated in Austria on Monday that North Korea may have restarted a 5-megawatt reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, while a senior United States government official then effectively confirmed the claim according to an international report.
“The government is watching the relevant movements closely with serious concern,” said a South Korean unification ministry spokesperson at a briefing.
“It is a well-known fact that North Korea has been continuously pursuing various reprocessing activities to secure additional plutonium,” Jeong Joon-hee was quoted by local news agency Yonhap as saying.
North Korea remains defiant in the face of international pressure to fall in line with multiple UN resolutions -- state media vowed Tuesday that the country “will produce more modern and diverse nuclear weapons”.
Pyongyang already confirmed the resumption of full operations at Yongbyon last year after the complex’s reactor was shut down nearly a decade ago in return for aid.
Experts, however, have been divided on how far developed the country’s nuclear program is amid conflicting reports and satellite imagery.