Page last updated at 19:48 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 20:48 UK

North Korea urged back to talks

The interior of a cooling tower at Yongbyon (image from February 2008)
The resumption of reprocessing follows a missile test

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged North Korea to return to its obligations to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Earlier, North Korea announced it had started re-processing spent fuel rods at the Yongbyon nuclear plant.

Mrs Clinton said she hoped the US and its partners would be able to resume discussions with Pyongyang.

Pyongyang pulled out of six-party talks last week, in response to world condemnation of a recent missile test.

The reprocessing is a possible move towards producing weapons-grade plutonium.

The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on three North Korean companies in response to the missile launch.

Pyongyang said it would ignore the sanctions, describing them as "a wanton violation of the UN charter".


5MW(e) reactor at Yongbyon ((Satellite image from 2006)

North Korea agreed in 2005 to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes and return, at an early date, to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to UN safeguards.

The US has been involved in six-party talks including both Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.

Speaking in Baghdad, Mrs Clinton welcomed the UN Security Council's "strong statement" on the missile test.

Feb 2007 - North Korea agrees to close its main nuclear reactor in exchange for fuel aid
June 2007 - North Korea shuts its main Yongbyon reactor
June 2008 - North Korea makes its long-awaited declaration of nuclear assets
Oct 2008 - The US removes North Korea from its list of countries which sponsor terrorism
Dec 2008 - Pyongyang slows work to dismantle its nuclear programme after a US decision to suspend energy aid
Jan 2009 - The North says it is scrapping all military and political deals with the South, accusing it of "hostile intent"
5 April 2009 - Pyongyang launches a rocket carrying what it says is a communications satellite
14 April 2009 - After criticism of the launch from the UN Security Council, North Korea vows to walk out of six-party talks
25 April: North Korea says it has resumed re-processing spent fuel

"We hope that we'll be able to resume discussions with North Korea that will lead to their assuming responsibility for denuclearising the peninsula," she said.

Megan Mattson, a US state department spokeswoman, said separately: "We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-weapons state."

North Korea's state news agency announced the resumption of spent fuel rod re-processing.

The re-processing would "contribute to bolstering the nuclear deterrence for self-defence", a North Korean official told the agency.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul says the move confirms that, for now at least, North Korea is serious about turning its back on the six-party talks.

North Korea had partially dismantled its nuclear reactor - the source of material for a 2006 atomic test - but is thought to possess enough reprocessed plutonium for between six and eight nuclear weapons.

Therefore, in the immediate term, Pyongyang's announcement does not significantly alter the strategic balance, our correspondent adds.

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