North Korea ‘restarts reactor’ which could produce devastating nuclear weapons

North Korea has seemingly reopened a plutonium-producing plant – which could be used for nuclear weapons.

Activity at the plant in Yongbyon Nuclear Science and Weapons Research Centre has picked up since February.

Cooling water has been discharged, according to a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Part of it read: “The continuation of the DPRK's nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable.”

North Korea is suspected of using a nearby laboratory to separate plutonium from fuel, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The IAEA has previously expressed fears that the plant may be aiming to turn the nuclear fuel into plutonium for nukes.

Jeffrey Lewis, a weapons expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told CNN: "At some level, none of this is new, but it is notable that the IAEA has said business at usual is going on at Yongbyon.

"One of the problems that we've had with North Korea is because it's been business as usual for the past several years, people have kind of just gotten used to the idea [of a nuclear-armed North Korea] and kind of forget about it.

“This stuff has been happening, and we only check in now and again."

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More plutonium could help North Korea make smaller nuclear weapons to fit on its ballistic missiles, said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

"The bottom line is North Korea wants to improve the number and quality of its nuclear weapons," he added.

While intelligence on North Korean nuclear weapons is limited, making it impossible to know their number, Albright estimated the country had the capacity to produce material for four to six bombs a year.

Kim Jong-un offered to scrap the complex in exchange for the easing of sanctions during talks with former US President Donald Trump in 2019.

At the time, Trump said he rejected the deal because Yongbyon was only one part of the North's nuclear programme, and was not enough of a concession to warrant loosening so many sanctions.

US President Joe Biden's administration has said it reached out to the North Koreans to offer talks, but Pyongyang has said it has no interest in negotiating without a change in policy by Washington.

"There has been no agreement governing these facilities for a long time now", said Joshua Pollack, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).

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