The AEI director said scientists had been “steadily improving” both the quality and quantity of the North’s nuclear deterrent and he issued a by-now standard warning to the United States.
The declaration came the day after Pyongyang announced it was ready to launch satellites aboard long-range rockets, marking a key national anniversary next month. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat when he meets with U.S. President Barack Obama later this month in Washington.
In the meantime, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Hwang Joon-kook, has been in New York since Sunday for meetings with ambassadors from the 15 member states of the Security Council.
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said: “North Korea should refrain from irresponsible provocation that serve only to aggravate regional tensions”.
The reactor at Yongbyon is the sole source of plutonium for North Korea. As a result, just what is happening at Nyongbyon is unclear.
North Korea claimed that its main nuclear facility, the Yongbyon nuclear complex, has resumed operations. In 2013, it restarted a plutonium reactor that had been shuttered under a 2007 disarmament agreement. The claims were based on the satellite imagery of the massive plant.
“Ground-based interceptors to Alaska, surface combatants to the Western Pacific, a THAAD battery on Guam, another radar in Japan in order to be ready and vigilant for anything the North Koreans may or may not do”, detailed Lippert.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby attended a press briefing to warn North Korea against its behaviour. The United States and its allies see them as disguised ballistic missile tests.
Ballistic missiles and rockets used in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology. “It’s North Korea’s traditional playbook: First start a crisis with words before actually making action”.
The North’s announcement that the Yongbyon nuclear complex is up and running comes as little surprise. In its most recent launch in late 2012, the North succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit. The international organization United Nations said that it was a banned test of ballistic-missile technology and levied sanctions.
“In other words, North Korea’s satellite launch is considered a test aimed at advancing its nuclear weapon delivery capabilities”, Hwang told reporters. It accused the U.S. of “bringing an immense amount of… nuclear weapons to South Korea in order to invade our country… and the South Korean military is publicly talking about testing a missile with a range of 800 kilometers (497 miles)”.
Such a move would nearly certainly invite fresh worldwide sanctions on the already isolated North and trigger a surge in military tensions on the divided Korean peninsula.
The two nations, which remain technically at war, played their last friendly in 2005. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.