April 2, 2013

North Korea said on Tuesday that it would put all its nuclear facilities — including its operational uranium-enrichment program and its reactors mothballed or under construction — to use in expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal, sharply raising the stakes in the escalating standoff with the United States and its allies.

The announcement by the North’s General Department of Atomic Energy came two days after the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said his nuclear weapons were not a bargaining chip and called for expanding his country’s nuclear arsenal in “quality and quantity” during a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

The decision will affect the role of the North’s uranium-enrichment plant in the North’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of the capital, Pyongyang, a spokesman for the nuclear department told the Korean Central News Agency. It was the first time North Korea said it would use the plant to make nuclear weapons. Since first unveiling it to a visiting American scholar in 2010, North Korea had insisted that it was running the plant to make reactor fuel to generate electricity, though Washington suggested that its purpose was to make bombs.

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