North Korea has rebooted its nuclear program, U.S. confirms

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 12, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front L) inspecting the command of Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 534. KNS/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence says North Korea has followed through on its threat to advance its nuclear weapons program.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday that the North has expanded the size of its uranium enrichment facility at its Nyongbyon nuclear complex and restarted a plutonium reactor that was shut down in 2007.

Clapper's written testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee concurs with the assessments of think tanks that monitor North Korea's nuclear program using commercial satellite imagery. South Korean intelligence also says the reactor has restarted.

North Korea announced its intention to "adjust and alter" its existing nuclear facilities after an atomic test explosion last February, backtracking from denuclearization commitments.

Clapper said the North has taken initial steps toward fielding a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile although it remains untested.

 

Satellite images show construction at North Korea's Nyongbyon nuclear complex
The combination of these three satellite images taken, from left, March 20, June 24 and Aug. 6, 2012, by GeoEye-1 satellite, and released, Aug. 21, 2012 by IHS Jane's Defence Weekly shows development of a building at the Nyongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center in North Korea. Analyst Allison Puccioni at IHS Jane's Defence Weekly said in a statement the image taken by the satellite Aug. 6 showed a dome had been hoisted atop the reactor building. She said it might take several more years for the facility to be brought into full operation.
AP Photo/GeoEye and IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
 

The revelation from Clapper comes as North Korea's propaganda machine is churning out near-daily diatribes against the United States and South Korea for a series of soon-to-start military maneuvers, warning nuclear war could be imminent and saying it will take dramatic action of its own if further provoked.

In the latest of the North's increasingly frequent salvos against the exercises, it said through its state-run media that the United States is building up its military forces in Asia so it can invade the country -- formally called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK -- and take control of the whole region.

"It is the strategic goal of the U.S. to invade the DPRK, bring its neighboring countries under its control with it as a stepping-stone and, furthermore, dominate the whole Asia-Pacific region," the ruling party's Rodong Sinmun said in an analysis on Monday. "The U.S. is working hard to kick off large-scale joint military drills this year, too, for the purpose of mounting a pre-emptive nuclear attack upon the DPRK."

The invectives against the exercises began earlier this month, when the North's powerful National Defense Commission proposed the rivals halt military actions and "mutual vilification" to build better relations. The North, however, strongly hinted it would maintain its nuclear weapons program while urging South Korea to cancel the drills with the United States, set to begin in late February.

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