North Korea vows to restart Yongbyon reactor

posted at 8:01 am on April 2, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Escalations continue in the Hermit Kingdom, and this time we even have a reaction from China, although it’s relatively mild. Yesterday, the US announced it would send a guided-missile destroyer to the Korean peninsula in response to the “bellicose rhetoric” coming from Pyongyang. During my show yesterday, I pointed out that this would provoke a reaction from the DPRK, and it didn’t take long for the Kim regime to prove me correct:

North Korea vowed Tuesday to restart a nuclear reactor that can make one bomb’s worth of plutonium a year, escalating tensions already raised by near daily warlike threats against the United States and South Korea.

The North’s plutonium reactor was shut down in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled. The declaration of a resumption of plutonium production — the most common fuel in nuclear weapons — and other facilities at the main Nyongbyon (also spelled Yongbyon) nuclear complex will boost fears in Washington and among its allies about North Korea’s timetable for building a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the United States, technology it is not currently believed to have.

A spokesman for the North’s General Department of Atomic Energy said that scientists will begin work at a uranium enrichment plant and a graphite-moderated 5 megawatt reactor, which generates spent fuel rods laced with plutonium and is the core of the Nyongbyon nuclear complex.

There has always been some question as to the extent of the 2007/8 “shutdown” of Yongbyon. Kim Jong-il blew up the reactor vent in June 2008, but threatened to restart the reactor three months later and tossed out IAEA inspectors.  “Disablement” restarted a month after that, but six months later the elder Kim again announced his intention to restart Yongbyon — and a month after that in May 2009, the nuclear-bomb tests began.

CNN notes the ambiguity in their breaking-news report this morning:

China finally issued a statement of “regret,” albeit non-specific regret, and not regret outside of the normal press management cycle:

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed regret on Tuesday that North Korea will restart all nuclear facilities, including its shuttered Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the comments at a daily news briefing.

The US played another chess move instead of worrying about regret:

The U.S. Navy is moving a sea-based radar platform closer to North Korea to track possible missile launches, a Pentagon official said Monday, in the latest step meant to deter the North and reassure South Korea and Japan that the U.S. is committed to their defense.

The sea-based X-band radar, a self-propelled system resembling an oil rig, is heading toward the Korean peninsula from Pearl Harbor, the official said. The John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer capable of shooting down ballistic missiles, also is being sent to the region, said another Defense Department official.

Four years ago almost to the day, the Obama administration left this radar platform tied to the dock while North Korea tested its long-range ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.  Its deployment this time suggests that the next missile test from the DPRK will be a test of our missile defense system, too.  It’s also a message from the White House that they are taking this escalation a lot more seriously than they did in 2009.


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North Korea vowed Tuesday to restart a nuclear reactor that can make one bomb’s worth of plutonium a year, escalating tensions already raised by near daily warlike threats against the United States and South Korea.

Hey, you can’t get money from those evil capitalists for stuff you’ve already shut down (and received money for doing so).

I said from the beginning that this is nothing but North Korea shaking the money tree. I stand by that assessment. The question is if money is forthcoming because lil Kim is in a tough spot with his people after all this saber rattling if there isn’t some excuse to back down.

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 8:05 AM

Dear leader actually doing his job?

cmsinaz on April 2, 2013 at 8:12 AM

NORKOR…….China’s “bad cop” they use to stir up tension and divert attention.

Does ANYONE really believe Beijing isn’t calling the shots over there?

Kimmi Jon-UnUn would be a radioactive puddle if he didn’t follow orders from the ChiComs.

PappyD61 on April 2, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Dear leader actually doing his job?

cmsinaz on April 2, 2013 at 8:12 AM

The rat-eared devil needs a new distraction to take the focus off the crappy job he is doing at home, the fact that his worthless brats just went on a double vacation costing millions of taxpayer dollars at the same time school children are being denied tours of the White House because of budget constraints, and (of course) the fact that here we are on April 2nd and the bastard has yet to submit his budget to Congress (due February 4th).

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Dear leader actually doing his job?

cmsinaz on April 2, 2013 at 8:12 AM

My thoughts as well. Obama has demonstrated in the past he is a piss poor ally unwilling to stand up to anyone except our own allies as an appeaser. I wonder if maybe he is being advised that North Korea’s belligerence will never be anything more than saber rattling so he sees an opportunity to appear tough without actually being tough.

NotCoach on April 2, 2013 at 8:19 AM

Does ANYONE really believe Beijing isn’t calling the shots over there?

Kimmi Jon-UnUn would be a radioactive puddle if he didn’t follow orders from the ChiComs.

PappyD61 on April 2, 2013 at 8:14 AM

I don’t think that the ChiComs are calling the shots. Not that they couldn’t exert influence if they wanted to. I suspect that if it looks like lil Kim is about to cause WWIII the situation would change but, for the time being, they are content to let the saber rattling continue.

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 8:20 AM

I wonder if maybe he is being advised that North Korea’s belligerence will never be anything more than saber rattling so he sees an opportunity to appear tough without actually being tough.

NotCoach on April 2, 2013 at 8:19 AM

Dispatching a destroyer and radar system is the easy part. The question is if the USS John S. McCain’s commanding officer will be given authority to launch missiles or if that would require a decision from the rat-eared devil (which could take months of dithering).

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 8:23 AM

You make me think back to Benghazi…

NotCoach on April 2, 2013 at 8:25 AM

China can “regret” this all day long. The truth is they’re loving every minute of it.

CurtZHP on April 2, 2013 at 8:29 AM

You make me think back to Benghazi…

NotCoach on April 2, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Except that the stakes are higher. South Korea is part of the G-20, there are US forces stationed within missile range of North Korea, and Kim Jong Un is hardly a predictable despot.

I’m at a loss to figure out how exactly this de-escalates after all the saber rattling.

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 8:30 AM

Kim, Kim, Kimmy, play it smart. Have the peeps scrape off some hills by the sea, plant some grass, lend-lease a few lawn mowers, punch 18 holes in the grass, and Barry and the Crew will be falling head over heels to come negotiate tee off times.

Limerick on April 2, 2013 at 8:35 AM

China does not want North Korea to fall, which would be the inevitable outcome of a war with South Korea/US, because it fears the mass influx of Norh Korean refugees that would result. Kim is the rogue leader of a rogue nation. The saber rattling and threat to re-start nuclear weapons production is another attempt at economic blackmail. The trouble is that this time it’s unlikely to work and, having made all these threats, Kim will be unable to back down in front of his people and will have to do something toward backing up his threats which could result in a real shooting war. That being the case, why are we sending a single Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and an attendant radar platform? Why not a full carrier battle group steaming just outside North Korean territorial waters and conducting flight operations day and night?

Trafalgar on April 2, 2013 at 8:47 AM

That being the case, why are we sending a single Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and an attendant radar platform? Why not a full carrier battle group steaming just outside North Korean territorial waters and conducting flight operations day and night?

Trafalgar on April 2, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Because the goal isn’t to escalate the tensions. Not to mention that kind of firepower gives lil Kim the attention and credibility he is craving (my guess is that he has daddy issues). We’ve a full battle group in Japan should they be needed at short notice.

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 8:54 AM

US announced it would send a guided-missile destroyer to the Korean peninsula in response to the “bellicose rhetoric” coming from Pyongyang

They told me if I voted for Romney we’d get a warmonger in the White House.

/

heretic on April 2, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Use humor…why the US government does not have a humor team to go after other governments or enemies I sometimes wonder.

Just imagine the satire and jokes poking fun of Lil Kim that could be made by the great funny writers, comedians, movie, comic makers in the US…then put it all up on the internet for all the world and hopefully Chinese and Koreans will see.

Alinsky Rule 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”

albill on April 2, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Use humor…why the US government does not have a humor team to go after other governments or enemies I sometimes wonder.

albill on April 2, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Because ridicule is a two-way street and the rat-eared devil has very thin skin. Remember that event where Romney killed the crowd with humor and the rat-eared devil bombed? While Mitt was doing his bit and very gently poking fun, the rat-eared devil was clearly seething that somebody would dare mock him.

Plus the rat-eared devil is your typical bully. He can dish it out but can’t take it. Lil Kim ridiculing in return well might lead to global conflagration.

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Dear leader actually doing his job?

cmsinaz on April 2, 2013 at 8:12 AM

Okay, there are TWO dear leaders here. One’s just more experienced than the other. Which one do you mean?

HiJack on April 2, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Why have we got 5 aircraft carriers sitting at Norfolk?Shouldn’t we be skedaddleing them to the coast of NK?

jeffinsjvca on April 2, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Why have we got 5 aircraft carriers sitting at Norfolk?Shouldn’t we be skedaddleing them to the coast of NK?

jeffinsjvca on April 2, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Well, in part, why would we deploy Atlantic-based carriers to North Korea when we have carriers on the west coast? Why wouldn’t we use the George Washington battle group which is homeported out of Japan? But most of all, why would we need all that firepower to deal with North Korea?

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 10:08 AM

But most of all, why would we need all that firepower to deal with North Korea?

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Exactly. The Norks want nuclear weapons? Let’s “send” them a few tactical nukes of our own.

HiJack on April 2, 2013 at 10:18 AM

I’ve loved watching the show MASH as much as the next guy, but every time I think of its underlying political philosophy, I grow livid. Its politics are that the Korean War was merely a prequel to Vietnam; that it was simply another stupid, useless expenditure of American blood and treasure plotted by evil generals whose tunnel vision could only see Reds under the bed.

Imagine where’d we be if the North Korean madmen held all of the Korean Peninsula? Imagine where south Koreans would be today if enslaved by this rogue regime?

I realize the show was made when the US was in a different place and at a different time. But what I hate about the current intellectual milieu is that our writers and critics would never think to even question the morality of the show because, well, it’s Alan Alda, and it’s antiwar, and don’t we all love Klinger. And in that, they do an injustice to the generation that fought that war, portrayed as merely one more group of young Americans that were duped and used, rather than having engaged in a truly noble cause.

bobs1196 on April 2, 2013 at 10:51 AM

The Norks want nuclear weapons? Let’s “send” them a few tactical nukes of our own.

HiJack on April 2, 2013 at 10:18 AM

With “From the people of the United States of America” stenciled on the side.

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 10:54 AM

bobs1196 on April 2, 2013 at 10:51 AM

You realize that MASH (both movie and series) was really written as a proxy for the Vietnam conflict, right?

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 10:57 AM

You realize that MASH (both movie and series) was really written as a proxy for the Vietnam conflict, right?

Yes, and that in itself is tremendously arrogant and simplistic — there’s the US, there’s the same north and south division of an Asian country…so the same “What the hell were we doing there?” applies.

bobs1196 on April 2, 2013 at 11:34 AM

China moblizing thier army, navy and airforce on the border. Hmmmm US moving Heavy assets into area….hmmmm south Korea Pres giving orders to fire on ANY attaqck from the north without waiting for her order…..hmmmm North Korea moving missile assets and conveys to forward readiness points….hmmmmm.

Nothing to see here.

unseen on April 2, 2013 at 11:45 AM

You realize that MASH (both movie and series) was really written as a proxy for the Vietnam conflict, right?

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 10:57 AM

yes, and it turned the Korean war one in which we were there for the right reasons into another “what the hell are we doing there” in the public’s minds.

unseen on April 2, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Dear leader actually doing his job?

cmsinaz on April 2, 2013 at 8:12 AM

He may not even be aware of these events. Like Benghazi.

BobMbx on April 2, 2013 at 11:48 AM

bobs1196 on April 2, 2013 at 10:51 AM

MASH comes form the same minds tht like Matthews thinks only white people can be racists.

unseen on April 2, 2013 at 11:49 AM

He may not even be aware of these events. Like Benghazi.

BobMbx on April 2, 2013 at 11:48 AM

doubtful but sadly possible.

unseen on April 2, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Some thoughts crossed my mind. The 50,000 ton radar platform, the SBX-1 has a maximum speed of 8 knots. It is a converted twin-hulled mobile drilling rig built for stability and not speed. Nominally based in Alaska, she actually has never anchored there, being mostly operating out of Pearl Harbor. And she was on a reduced operational status for at least a while very recently in a “limited test support role” for budgetary reasons.

Question one: exactly where is she, and how long will it take her to get into position to cover North Korea from wherever she is at only 8 freaking knots? Note that she does not need to be next to North Korea, but that she may have to cross a big chunk of that little pond called the Pacific Ocean.

Question two: is she back in full operational status? I would assume that they made her operational again, but this is the Obama regime.

Question three: if the Norks sink the Aegis destroyer named after his father and grandfather, will Senator John “Maverick RINO” McCain be as studiously uninterested as he was after we were attacked in Benghazi?

Subotai Bahadur on April 2, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Well, in part, why would we deploy Atlantic-based carriers to North Korea when we have carriers on the west coast? Why wouldn’t we use the George Washington battle group which is homeported out of Japan? But most of all, why would we need all that firepower to deal with North Korea?

Happy Nomad on April 2, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Obviously, it would be stupid to waste time sending a carrier group all the way around Africa to the Pacific. But we might need lots of firepower.

The Nork nuke threat is all bluster–if we have a missile defense system set up near the Korean Peninsula, we should be able to shoot down a nuke aimed at South Korea or Japan, and if Krazy Kim III is stupid enough to bomb China, things will get really ugly for him.

The real threat is not a nuke attack, but a conventional artillery attack on Seoul from artillery batteries set up just north of the DMZ. It would take many planes flying many sorties to take out the North’s artillery, and it would have to be done quickly, before the artillery inflicted too much damage and casualties in Seoul. An armed carrier group at sea just out of range of Nork missiles is the perfect deterrent, because once a Nork artillery gunner shoots and reveals his position, he becomes a perfect target for an American smart bomb. Even if Krazy Kim gives the order, some of the gunners might think twice about the North Korean version of kamikaze.

Steve Z on April 2, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Does ANYONE really believe Beijing isn’t calling the shots over there?

Well, there’s me … not that my opinion counts for much.

It has been suggested that these threats are an attempt by NK to persuade China to be more co-operative. The suggestion is basically that the status quo suits China better than a NK/SK reconciliation and certainly much better than a war, hence it is in China’s interests to mollify NK with some treats.

Kimmi Jon-UnUn would be a radioactive puddle if he didn’t follow orders from the ChiComs.

PappyD61 on April 2, 2013 at 8:14 AM

There is no reason why NK should obey China, unless they want to. They could just as easily seek reconciliation with SK or any other country, if they wished.

China is about as likely to “nuke” NK as the USA is to “nuke” Mexico. Attacking NK with nuclear weapons would, as a minimum, be bad for trade. It might also start an Asian nuclear arms race — Japan, SK, India, Thailand and Vietnam could all join in. Russia wouldn’t exactly be thrilled either.

Meanwhile, if China wants to exert influence there are always the valves on the pipeline that carries oil from China to NK. Those valves have “malfunctioned” before and they can “malfunction” again.

YiZhangZhe on April 2, 2013 at 6:52 PM