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N. Korea to reactivate mothballed nuclear reactor as 'deterrent'

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By Reuters
Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 7:33 p.m.
 

North Korea said on Tuesday it would revive a mothballed nuclear reactor able to produce bomb-grade plutonium but stressed it was seeking a deterrent capacity and did not repeat recent threats to attack South Korea and the United States.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the crisis had gone too far, and he appealed for dialogue and negotiation to resolve the situation.

“Nuclear threats are not a game. Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability,” Ban, a South Korean, said in a news conference during a visit to Andorra.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, said another guided-missile destroyer had taken position in the western Pacific to assist with missile defense, as tensions rise over North Korea's threats.

The crisis flared when Pyongyang was hit with U.S. sanctions for conducting a third nuclear test in February, and the United States and South Korea staged military drills that North Korea viewed as “hostile.”

Pyongyang responded by threatening a nuclear strike on the United States, missile strikes on its Pacific bases and war with South Korea, prompting Washington to bolster forces in the region.

The state-owned KCNA news agency announced on Tuesday that North Korea would restart all nuclear facilities for electricity and military uses.

One of the most isolated and unpredictable states in the world, North Korea carried out its third nuclear test since 2006 but is believed to be years away from producing a deliverable nuclear weapon, though it claims to have a deterrent.

A speech by the North's young leader, Kim Jong-un, given on Sunday and published in full by KCNA on Tuesday, appeared to dampen any prospect of a direct confrontation with the United States by emphasizing that nuclear weapons would ensure the country's safety as a deterrent.

“Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty,” Kim said. “It is on the basis of a strong nuclear strength that peace and prosperity can exist and so can the happiness of people's lives.”

Meeting in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se stressed their countries' military readiness and said denuclearization was the only way forward for North Korea.

“What Kim Jong-un has been choosing to do is provocative. It is dangerous, reckless and the United States will not accept (North Korea) as a nuclear state,” Kerry said.

The Obama administration's deployment of advanced aircraft and warships to South Korea was a signal “that the United States will defend our allies and that we will not be subject to irrational or reckless provocation,” he said.

Kerry, who will visit South Korea next week, reminded the North Koreans that “they have an option, and that option is to enter into negotiations for denuclearization ... and to begin to focus on the needs of their people.”

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