North Korea issues nuclear warning to the U.S.

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In its latest bout of saber rattling, North Korea says it is ready to use nuclear weapons against the United States and other foes if they
pursue “their reckless hostile policy” toward Kim Jong Un’s regime.

In a statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday, an
atomic energy official said Pyongyang is improving its nuclear weapons arsenal “in quality and
quantity.”

“If the U.S. and other hostile forces persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the DPRK
and behave mischievously, the DPRK is fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons any time,” the director of the North Korean Atomic Energy Institute said, using an abbreviation of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea.

North Korea’s main nuclear complex at Yongbyon, which includes a uranium enrichment plant and a plutonium production reactor, is operating normally,
the official told the news agency.

Notorious for issuing alarming and attention- grabbing statements, Pyongyang has repeatedly
threatened to use nuclear weapons against the United States in the past. But strong doubts remain
over whether it has the missile technology to target the U.S. mainland.

In an indication it wants to advance its missile capabilities, North Korea said Monday it was
planning more satellite launches. Prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions, such launches are
widely seen as a way of testing ballistic missile technology.

Kim’s regime didn’t say when the next launch would take place, but observers have speculated that it
could launch a long-range rocket carrying a satellite in October around the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s ruling party.

The atomic energy official on Tuesday reiterated the North Korean stance that its nuclear weapons program is a self-defense measure “in the face of the U.S. extreme hostile policy and nuclear threats towards it.”

Following the North Korean statement, the South Korean government said it was “looking into the matter with close cooperation with the U.S.”

The North’s announcement that the Yongbyon nuclear complex is up and running comes as little
surprise.

During a period of heightened tensions in the region in the spring of 2013, Pyongyang announced that it would revamp and restart the facilities at the site.

In February of this year, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he believed that “North Korea has followed through on its announcement by expanding its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarting the reactor.”

But some North Korea watchers have questioned whether the reactor is operating at full power.

A July article on 38 North , a website that specializes in analysis of North Korea, said satellite imagery suggested that the reactor may not have been operating or was only functioning at low power levels.

The report’s authors also identified rapid construction at the uranium enrichment plant of a building they theorized could be used “to assemble or store conventional high explosive components of
a nuclear weapon.”

The North Korean atomic energy official said on Tuesday that the Yongbyon facilities were being
employed for both economic development and “the building of a nuclear force.”

Experts says nuclear arsenal is
growing Kim Jong Un’s regime may already have 10 to 15
nuclear weapons, according to David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who now heads the non-profit Institute for Science and International Security.

In a report in February, Albright predicted that Pyongyang could increase its stockpile to anywhere
between 20 and roughly 100 nuclear weapons by 2020.

The growing nuclear arsenal poses a serious strategic challenge for the United States.

The U.S. government has repeatedly called on North Korea to commit to denuclearization as a
condition of any future negotiations, but Kim’s regime has repeatedly dismissed such an idea,
demanding to be recognized as a nuclear power.

Pyongyang’s statement on Tuesday provided few details about its specific grievances with U.S.
policy, which it accused of “openly seeking the downfall” of North Korea’s “social system.”

The combative rhetoric comes just three weeks after North and South Korea reached a deal to dial down tensions in the region that were inflamed by landmine blasts and artillery fire in the Demilitarized
Zone that separates the two countries.

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