North Korea announced plans on Tuesday to restart a mothballed nuclear reactor that has been closed since 2007 amid international nuclear disarmament talks. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un emphasized it was seeking a deterrent capacity, rather than repeating recent threats to attack South Korea and the United States.
In a speech by Kim, delivered on Sunday but published in full by the state KCNA news agency on Tuesday dialed down the prospects of a direct confrontation with the United States.
"Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty," Kim said. "It is on the basis of a strong nuclear strength that peace and prosperity can exist and so can the happiness of people's lives."
Ever since Team America, I haven't been able to take North Korea seriously; although after a series of recent threats made by North Korea, my attitudes have changed. What is escalating the issue further is that the United States have been taking these threats seriously, even if it is the same old North Korean rhetoric. The most recent threats seemed to be fueled by joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea in the region, as well as tougher UN sanctions in response to North Korea's latest nuclear test in February.
The United States, taking these threats seriously, have continued with the drills and have moved even more military resources into the region. In the past two weeks they have sent a B-52 bomber, a B-2 bomber, two F-22 Raptors, and are in the process of moving a warship and a sea-based radar platform closer to the North Korean coast in order to monitor that country's military moves, including possible new missile launches, a Defense Department official said Monday.
Are these threats just more of the same from North Korea? Lets look at the Yongbyon nuclear facility.
In June 2008, the usually secretive North Korean government made a public show by destroying the cooling tower of the Yongbyon reactor to demonstrate its compliance with a deal to disable its nuclear facilities. Two months later, as leadership balked at U.S. demands for close inspections of its nuclear facilities, the North started to express second thoughts. It said it was suspending the disabling of its nuclear facilities and considering steps to restore the facilities at Yongbyon "to their original state."
Do these threats hold any weight? Does North Korea actually intend to go to war with South Korea and the United States?
The United States have been carefully considering both of these questions. Although the Soviet-aged reactor at Yongbyon facility was partially destroyed in 2008, it is the only known source of plutonium for North Korea's nuclear program, and the idea of North Korea ramping up nuclear activity is enough to seriously reconsider the defensive stance the United States is currently in.