Shut the Yongbyon facilityThe reactivation of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon by North Korea gathers dark clouds over the Korean Peninsula once again. The facilities revealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) include the 5MWe reactor and the Radiochemical Laboratory. The gas-cooled reactor, which resumed operations in July, produces plutonium for nuclear bombs. The lab has reprocessed the spent nuclear fuel from the reactor to extract plutonium since February.
On top of that, signs of activity were detected on a uranium mine, suggesting a continuous production of nuclear fuel by North Korea. If these findings in the IAEA’s September report are true, North Korea has resumed the production of nuclear weapons after violating the South-North and North-U.S. agreements in 2018.
And yet, Pyongyang engaged in its signature strategy of deceiving Seoul by restoring the inter-Korean military communication lines at the end of July to feign a peaceful move. The Moon Jae-in administration reportedly detected the North’s suspicious move in Yongbyon at the time. Yet it heartily welcomed the restoration of communication lines as if North Korea had a willingness to improve inter-Korean relations. As a result, the Moon administration noticeably scaled back the annual South Korea-U.S. joint military drill which ended last week. After South Korea took the step, the U.S. forces were reportedly embarrassed. The government even skipped the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a command post exercise aimed at changing the government’s administrative system to a wartime mode.
The resumption of nuclear facilities is not simply aimed at pressuring the United States but at increasing the number of plutonium-based nuclear bombs, which are used to spark the explosion of a hydrogen bomb at the initial stage. We wonder if North Korea reopened the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon to produce hydrogen bombs in a full-fledged way from now.
The recalcitrant state is expected to possess as many as 100 nuclear weapons now — and up to 200 in just five to six years, according to an analysis by the RAND Corporation. That poses a serious threat to world peace, not to mention South Korea and Northeast Asia. Nevertheless, the Moon administration is persistently begging North Korea for peace.
North Korea faces the worst-ever situation on the economic, food and public health fronts. Despite its touted self-reliance, it cannot overcome the crisis unless UN sanctions are lifted. Its adherence to nuclear weapons cannot help its people. It is time for Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons and missiles and immediately shut its nuclear facilities. Otherwise, it can never find a way out.