Kim Jong Ill
In a sign of the further souring of relations with Washington, North Korea announced yesterday that it would immediately restart a nuclear reactor that has been offline since 1994, when it nearly provoked a war with the U.S. North Korea says the Yongbyon reactor is its only option for producing electricity in light of the recent suspension of fuel deliveries from the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and the European Union. Fuel deliveries were halted as punishment for North Korea’s secret nuclear weapons program, which top officials acknowledged early in October. North Korea’s foreign ministry says the 1994 nuclear shutdown was adopted with the understanding that the country would receive 500,000 tons of oil annually; hence, the ministry noted, “Whether the [nation] refreezes its nuclear facilities or not hinges upon the U.S.” According to U.S. intelligence sources, the reactor is capable of generating enough plutonium to make one or two nuclear weapons per year. Busy with the Middle East, the White House announced that it had no plans to invade North Korea, but said it would not negotiate its hard-line stance regarding the country’s nuclear weapons.