PN's Voice 107

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PN's Voice 107, 02.02.2017
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PN's Voice No. 107,  02. 02. 2017 
Small steps, Road to peace

New Images Suggest N. Korea has Restarted Reactor to make Plutonium

New commercial satellite imagery suggests North Korea has resumed operation of a reactor at its main nuclear site that is used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons program, Washington based think tank 38 North said on Friday. 38 North, which monitors North Korea, said previous analysis from 18 January showed signs that North Korea was preparing to restart the reactor at Yongbyon, having unloaded spent fuel rods for reprocessing to produce additional plutonium for its nuclear weapons stockpile. It said in a report: “Imagery from January 22 shows a water plume (most probably warm) originating from the cooling water outlet of the reactor, an indication that the reactor is very likely operating.”

It said it was impossible to estimate at what power level the reactor was running, “although it may be considerable”. A 38 North Korea report last week said operations at the reactor had been suspended since late 2015. News of the apparent reactor restart comes at a time of increasing concern about North Korea’s weapons programs, which could present the new administration of US president Donald Trump with its first major crisis.

A report by leading US-based nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker published by 38 North in September last year estimated North Korea had stockpiles of 32kg to 54kg of plutonium, enough for six to eight bombs, and had the capacity to produce 6kg, or approximately one bomb’s worth, a year.

In a New Year speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country was close to test launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and state media has said a launch could come at any time. Trump’s defense secretary plans to visit Japan and South Korea next week and concerns about North Korea are expected to top his agenda.
Source : The Guardian

North Korean Elite is Turning Against Kim Jong-un, Says Defector

North Korea’s elite is outwardly expressing its discontent towards Kim Jong-un and his government as more outside information trickles into the isolated nation, the country’s former deputy ambassador to London has said. Thae Yong-ho defected to South Korea in August last year and since December has been speaking to media and appearing on television to discuss his defection and his life as a North Korean envoy.

“When Kim Jong-un first came to power, I was hopeful that he would make reasonable and rational decisions to save North Korea from poverty, but I soon fell into despair watching him purging officials for no proper reasons,” Thae said during his first news conference with foreign media on Wednesday. “Low-level dissent or criticism of the regime, until recently unthinkable, is becoming more frequent,” said Thae, who spoke in fluent, British-accented English. “We have to spray gasoline on North Korea, and let the North Korean people set fire to it.” Thae, 54, has said publicly that dissatisfaction with Kim prompted him to flee his post. Two university-age sons and his wife defected with him.

Thae is the most senior official to have fled North Korea and entered public life in the south since the 1997 defection of Hwang Jang-yop, the brains behind the North’s governing ideology, Juche, which combines Marxism and extreme nationalism. The modern North Korean system had “nothing to do with true communism”, Thae said, adding that the elite had watched with unease as countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and the former Soviet Union embraced economic and social reforms. Thae has said more North Korean diplomats are waiting in Europe to defect to South Korea.
Source : The New York Times, The Guardian

S. Korean Lawmakers and US Delegation Argue over THAAD

A group of former U.S. politicians and South Korea’s opposition lawmakers on Wednesday held a heated debate over the scheduled deployment of U.S. THAAD missile interceptors.

Christopher Hill, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea said "We have many defensive systems, some of the best in the world, including THAAD, but the strongest system we have is our alliance." Hill’s stance was backed up by former Republican Congressman mat Salmon who stressed the importance of US support to South Korean security; "If North Korea provokes or attacks, I doubt very seriously if China would intercede on your behalf. The United States would." However, Cho Eung-cheon, the main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker seemed unconvinced on THAAD’s necessity and its effectiveness vis-à-vis North Korea’s nuclear threat; “The U.S. has yet to give a clear answer as to how effective THAAD will be in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat.”
Source : KBS News

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