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North Korea restarts plutonium production at Yongbyon


SEOUL, April 25 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea said on Saturday it has restarted work at nuclear facilities that produce weapons-grade plutonium following the withdrawal from six-nation talks on its controversial nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency quoted on Saturday the reclusive communist regime's Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that Pyongyang had restarted a plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon, which had been idled under an earlier international agreement.

The official said the move "will contribute to bolstering the nuclear deterrence for self-defense in every way to cope with the increasing military threats from the hostile forces."

According to Russian analysts, it will take up to a year before the North would be able to obtain plutonium from about 8,000 spent fuel rods at the Yongbyon reactor.

Pyongyang's announcement came shortly after a U.N. Security Council committee approved new sanctions against three major North Korean companies - Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., Korea Ryongbong General Corp., and Tanchon Commercial Bank, which are suspected of involvement in ballistic missile transactions.

North Korea withdrew from the six-nation talks on scrapping its nuclear program after the UN Security Council condemned the launch of a rocket on April 5, which Pyongyang said was carrying a communications satellite.

The North has also expelled IAEA and U.S. nuclear inspectors who monitored the disablement of nuclear facilities in the country.

The six-nation talks, involving North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States, were launched in 2003 after Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Under deals reached in 2007, the North began disabling a nuclear reactor and other facilities at Yongbyon under U.S. supervision in exchange for economic aid and political incentives.

However, in December, the latest round of six-party talks resulted in deadlock over a U.S. demand that nuclear inspectors be allowed to take samples out of the country from North Korean facilities for further analysis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who recently visited Pyongyang, said on Friday that North Korea had no plans to return to six-nation talks, and expressed hope that the situation around North Korea's nuclear and missile programs would not be used as a pretext for the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region.

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