SEOUL -- North Korea restarted its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, a South Korean lawmaker said, as the North put its troops on high alert and said it is "ready to confront" the United States and the South over naval drills set for this week.
The National Intelligence Service informed lawmakers of the restart, ruling New Frontier Party lawmaker Cho Won-jin said by phone Tuesday. Lawmakers were also told that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told his Cabinet that he plans to seek reunification with the South by force in three years, Mr. Cho said.
Running the Yongbyon reactor would mean that the North is making good on promises made in April to restart the facility as part of efforts to produce energy and improve its nuclear-armed force. The U.N. Security Council has imposed strict sanctions on the North in a bid for it to return to negotiations and abandon its nuclear ambitions.
The finding is backed up by satellite-imagery analysis this month that indicated the North has resumed nuclear activity there. The imagery last month showed water being released into the Kuryong River from the reactor facility at North Korea's main nuclear complex, according to the 38 North website, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. The reactor was mothballed under a six-nation disarmament deal in 2007.
Tensions on the peninsula have heightened since February, when North Korea tested its third nuclear device and then threatened first strikes against the United States and South Korea over U.N. sanctions imposed after the Feb. 12 blast.
In a statement on its official Korean Central News Agency Tuesday, the North warned of possible "tragic situations" that may result from the military drills set for this week. The maneuvers, which will include forces from Japan, aim to better coordinate disaster response.
"The U.S. will be entirely accountable for tragic situations to be brought by the nuclear-armed invaders from the U.S.," an unidentified official with the Korean People's Army said in the statement. "The U.S. should know that our army is ready to confidently confront whatever turbulences and perilous provocations with powerful military forces."
A typhoon moving through the region led the United States and South Korea to suspended the drills Tuesday and today, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a briefing in Seoul. South Korea's military is closely monitoring the North's troop movements, Mr. Kim said.
First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM