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Pyongyang to restart its nuclear facilities

Updated: 2013-04-03 01:26
By Cheng Guangjin and Pu Zhendong ( China Daily)

The risk of a flashpoint is running high on the Korean Peninsula after Pyongyang announced it would rebuild and restart its nuclear facilities, analysts said.

"What we must be cautious of is accidental events that might be misread, resulting in a firefight or even larger disasters," said Huang Youfu, a professor of Korean studies at Minzu University of China. But he said the chances are slim that Pyongyang will launch a planned attack against the US.

China called for calm and restraint on Tuesday.

"We have noticed the remarks of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and express our regret," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular news conference.

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive," Hong said, calling for parties to resume dialogue and find a proper way to resolve the issue.

"China's persistent position is to realize the denuclearization of the peninsula and protect peace and stability of the peninsula and northeast Asia," he said.

The DPRK will rebuild and restart its nuclear facilities, including a mothballed uranium enrichment facility and a 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon, a spokesman at its atomic energy agency told the official KCNA news service on Tuesday.

The nuclear plant's output will be used for military purposes and to solve what KCNA termed an "acute shortage of electricity".

Huang, from Minzu University of China, said the DPRK's threats, which were intended as bargaining chips with the US, have had little effect.

"The DPRK has to realize that what it has done cannot be the solution," Huang said.

On Monday, the US said a destroyer had been deployed off the southwest coast of the ROK in what a US defense official described as "a prudent move" given the current tensions.

The Republic of Korea's Foreign Ministry said the latest statement from the DPRK was "very regrettable".

ngbyon reactor in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord and destroyed its cooling tower a year later. But the DPRK revealed it was enriching uranium at Yongbyon in 2010 when it allowed foreign experts to visit the centrifuge facility there.

The announcement was Pyongyang's latest move in a series of threats that included vows of a nuclear strike on the US, missile strikes on its Pacific bases and war with the ROK following sanctions and the joint US and ROK military drills.

It followed a meeting of the DPRK's ruling party on Sunday, which adopted a declaration calling nuclear weapons "the nation's life" and an important component of its defense, while emphasizing economic development as the other priority.

Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February, after tests in 2006 and 2009.

In Washington, the White House has said the US takes the DPRK's war threats seriously.

But White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday: "I would note that despite the harsh rhetoric we are hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces."

Pyongyang "is keeping tension and crisis alive to raise the stakes ahead of possible future talks with the United States", Hwang Ji-hwan, a DPRK expert at the University of Seoul, told The Associated Press.

Mutual distrust is the fundamental reason for the deteriorating situation on the Korean Peninsula, Zhang Xudong, an expert on DPRK studies at Tsinghua University, said recently.

Zhang noted every time the US and the ROK adjust policies toward the DPRK, it results in nuclear threats from the country.

"Neither military confrontation nor saber-rattling will lead to breakthroughs in resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. All parties should stick to diplomacy and dialogue," he said.

Contact the writers at chengguangjin@chinadaily.com.cn and puzhendong@chinadaily.com.cn