North Korea Extracting Weapons-grade Plutonium: South Korea
Despite growing scrutiny on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and missile programme, Pyongyang is believed to be extracting weapons-grade plutonium.
South Korean media says the Kim Jong Un-regime has temporarily halted the 5-megawatt Yongbyon nuclear reactor complex. This site is North Korea’s main source of plutonium.
Sources believe this could mean that spent fuel rods are being reprocessed to extract plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. Jeon Ha-kyou, South Korean defense ministry spokesman, said South Korean and US intelligence authorities are closely monitoring North Korea.
However, this is not the first time for North Korea to temporarily stop the operation of the reactor for maintenance or fuel extraction.
North Korea is a Nuclear Power
Last week, North Korea updated the country’s status to that of a nuclear power in its constitution. The rogue country boasts a missile programme and is working to develop nuclear weapons, and has not released details or number of nuclear weapons it has built or deployed.
Sources believe North Korea could build 20 or more weapons with its plutonium, which ranges as high as 70kg.
Kim Jong-un announced plans for an exponential increase in his nuclear weapons, more in the 300 to 500 range.
North Korea has diversified its arsenal, adding a wide array of missiles and other weapons, ranging from a new liquid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile and long-range cruise missiles, and an underwater nuclear drone.
Analysts believe North Korea will get a boost for its nuclear programme from Russia as it recently hosted Kim Jong-un and pledged closer military cooperation with the country. There are also fears that Moscow is clandestinely supplying plutonium directly to North Korea.
North Korea Strikes South Korean Ships
Furthermore, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said North Korea is attacking its ships, through phishing emails.
The NIS says North Korea wants intelligence to help Pyongyang and its Navy in shipbuilding. Malicious code was also sent to IT maintenance contractors in an effort to bypass security.
Kim Jong-un said in September he wanted to modernize the Pukjung Machine Complex (a facility that produces marine engines). He wants to alter the development direction of the shipbuilding industry.