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North Korea working on nuke reactor, U.N. agency says

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 7:48 p.m.

VIENNA — North Korea has been carrying out construction work at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, including near a mothballed reactor that experts say could produce plutonium for bombs, a U.N. nuclear agency report showed on Wednesday.

The U.N. watchdog, which monitors the isolated state's nuclear developments via satellite, said the activities appeared to be broadly consistent with the North's “statements that it is further developing its nuclear capabilities.”

North Korea's nuclear program “remains a matter of serious concern,” the International Atomic Energy Agency report to member states said.

Pyongyang announced in April that it would revive the aged Yongbyon five-megawatt research reactor that yields bomb-grade plutonium but stressed it was seeking a deterrent capacity.

Nuclear experts said at the time it would probably take about half a year to get the reactor up and running if it had not suffered significant damage from neglect.

The Yongbyon reactor has been technically out of operation for years. In 2008, the North destroyed its cooling tower as a confidence-building step in U.S.-led multilateral negotiations aimed at reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

But the thaw in tensions was short-lived. Six-nation aid-for-disarmament talks between the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States have been stalled for years.

North Korea said in July it would not give up its nuclear deterrent until Washington ends its “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang, although it was ready to revive nuclear talks. The United States fought on the side of the South in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Meanwhile, Iran is making steady progress in its disputed nuclear program and has installed more than 1,000 advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment facility, the IAEA reported on Wednesday.

The quarterly report — the first since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June — said Iran continues to stonewall U.N. efforts to determine the military dimensions of its nuclear program.

The findings by the IAEA indicate few changes in Iran's efforts, although they mostly cover the period prior to Rouhani's inauguration on Aug. 3.

Rouhani, a relative moderate, has called for “greater transparency” on the nuclear program and a resumption of negotiations with the United States and other world powers.

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