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N Korea prepares to restart nuclear reactor

North Korea on Friday said it wanted to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor as disarmament talks stalled.

world Updated: Sep 19, 2008 19:29 IST

North Korea on Friday said it wanted to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor as disarmament talks stalled.

The controversial reactor's restart was under preparation, while work to rebuild the country's nuclear facilities to its original state had been ongoing for some time, the official North Korean KCNA news agency said.

Pyongyang "suspended the disablement of its nuclear facilities and work has been underway to restore its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon to their original state since some time ago," an unnamed foreign ministry official was quoted as saying.

KCNA said the step was a reaction to the US decision not to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as agreed in disarmament talks earlier this year.

North Korea stopped disabling the plutonium-producing reactor in late August.

Foreign ministry official Hyon Hak Bong said earlier during energy aid talks in Panmunjom that Pyongyang was making "thorough preparations" to restore nuclear facilities.

"You may say we have already started work to restore them," he said, adding that the communist state would soon announce when the reactor would be restarted. His remarks for the first time confirmed earlier reports about the North's intentions to get Yongbyon back online.

South Korea said in early September that North Korea had started to rebuild its previously disabled nuclear facilities.

Hyon accused the US of not keeping its part of a deal struck in six-nation disarmament talks in November.

In talks with the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, the North agreed to disable its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for energy aid and an easing of sanctions.

The US said verification of Pyongyang's disablement is a prerequisite for removing it from the terrorism blacklist, a demand which Hyon rejected as "unacceptable".

North Korea now neither wished to be removed from the list, nor did it expect such a step, KCNA quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

Uncertainty over the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who has not been seen in public for months, adds to the stalemate.

Pyongyang exploded a nuclear device in October 2006. Analysts said it would take North Korea less than one year to rebuild what has been dismantled.