North Korea Says It Will Restart Nuclear Facilities

Pyongyang issued new threats Tuesday amid tension with the U.S. and South Korea.

SEOUL, April 2, 2013— -- North Korea has pledged to strengthen its nuclear weaponry by refurbishing its shelved operations at the Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

Analysts say this is simply another step toward clarifying its message to the world.

"They're saying, 'We are a nuclear power, acknowledge it, and treat us as one of the nuclear power players,'" said Shin Beom Chul, director of North Korea Military Studies at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.

The 5-megawatt, graphite-moderated reactor is to be refurbished and restarted, along with the uranium enrichment factory and other nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, Pyongyang's spokesman for the General Department of Atomic Energy said today.

Its cooling tower was blown up in front of invited international media in 2008 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks agreed in October 2007.

"What they are saying is that they will first quantitatively increase plutonium production to build more nuclear weapons no matter what," Shin said. "Nuclear deterrence has officially become their national motto this weekend."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared Monday at its parliamentary session that building nuclear weapons and reviving the economy will be nation's top priorities. He adopted a declaration Sunday calling nuclear weapons "the nation's life" and would not be traded even for "billions of dollars."

Analysts believe North Korea has racked up 40 kilograms of plutonium, enough to make six to 10 nuclear bombs, depending on the level of sophistication in processing technology.

North Korea has long said the reactor operation is aimed at generating electricity. It takes about 8,000 fuel rods to run the reactor. Reprocessing the spent fuel rods after a year of reactor operation could yield about 7 kilograms of plutonium, enough to make at least one nuclear bomb, experts say.

North Korea added the reactor to its nuclear complex in 1986 after seven years of construction. The country began building a 50- and a 200-megawatt reactor in 1984, but its construction was suspended under a 1994 nuclear deal with Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.