AP: North Korea Vows to Restart Nuke Plant After U.S. Sends Destroyer to Region
North Korea vowed on Tuesday to restart a nuclear reactor that can make one bomb's worth of plutonium a year, escalating tensions already raised by near daily warlike threats against the U.S. and South Korea, the Associated Press reported.
Read more of the latest information out from the AP on the rising tensions on the Korean peninsula:
The plutonium reactor was shut down in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled. The declaration of a resumption of plutonium production -- the most common fuel in nuclear weapons -- and other facilities at the main Nyongbyon nuclear complex will boost fears in Washington and among its allies about North Korea's timetable for building a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the mainland U.S., technology it is not currently believed to have.
The announcement came as the near-daily saber rattling from the communist dictatorship continued, with new footage of North Korean troops firing at what appears to by target cutouts of U.S. soldiers. Pyongyang has previously released footage showing air strikes on American cities and last week released a photo of Kim Jong Un signing papers authorizing rockets to be aims at cities including Washington, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. The threats have been building since a new round of U.N. and U.S. sanctions followed North Korea's Feb. 12 underground nuclear test.
The U.S. has responded to the increasing threats from North Korea, sending F-22 stealth fighter jets to take part in war games with South Korea and, this week, dispatching the USS John S. McCain, a guided missile cruiser, to the region in what White House spokesman Jay Carney said was an effort to reduce the "chance of miscalculation and provocation" by Pyonyang. The McCain, named for both the father and grandfather of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is outfitted with 90 missiles, including Tomahawk and anti-aircraft and is one of the U.S. Navy's most powerful destroyers.
Restarting the reactor is potentially the boldest step yet by North Korea in the ongoing escalation. According to estimates from the Institute for Science and International Security from late 2012, North could have enough weapons grade uranium for 21-32 nuclear weapons by 2016 if it used one centrifuge at the plant to enrich uranium to weapons-grade. It was not clear how long it would take to restart the reactor, whose cooling tower was blown up in a made-for-TV event in 2008.