US spies N Korea nuke activity
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US spies N Korea nuke activity

News 24 | August 22 2005

Tokyo - A US spy satellite has found that North Korea reactivated its nuclear reactor last month after it spotted vapour coming out of the reactor's boiler, a Japanese daily said on Sunday.

The reactivation of the Yongbyon nuclear complex came just before six-nation talks aimed at halting the North's nuclear drive began in Beijing in late July, the Asahi Shimbun daily said, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources.

The topic of the reactivated reactor had been discussed during the talks - which involved the two Koreas, Russia, Japan, China and the United States - the daily said without giving further details.

The Asahi said vapour had not been seen at the Yongbyon reactor since early April, and the report quoted a US source as saying that the release of vapour indicated renewed activity.

"It is hard to think that the boiler alone can operate without the active nuclear reactor," a US government source was quoted by the daily as saying.

In April, North Korea said it had shut down the reactor, 90km north of Pyongyang, while it was preparing to reprocess more spent fuel, a move that could result in the production of enough plutonium to double its nuclear arsenal.

"North Korea has indicated it will give up on the nuclear reactor, but at the same time it is steadily expanding the level of its nuclear development," a senior US official was quoted by the Asahi as saying.

The latest round of six-nation talks resumed in Beijing last month after a 13-month stalemate, following North Korea's declaration in February that it already had nuclear bombs.

After nearly two weeks of sometimes heated and late-night negotiations, the key sticking point was whether North Korea should be allowed to run nuclear programs for peaceful, energy use.

The United States has ruled out North Korea being allowed to operate light-water nuclear reactors, but South Korea has said the North should have the right to maintain a civilian nuclear program.

The six-party talks broke off on August 7 for three weeks without any sign of agreement on how to get the Stalinist state to abandon atomic weapons.

The talks are scheduled to resume in the final week of August.

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