SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said today that it is making rapid progress on work to enrich uranium and build a light-water nuclear power plant, increasing worries that the country is developing another way to make atomic weapons.
Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the construction of an experimental light-water reactor and low enriched uranium are “progressing apace.”
The statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, said that North Korea has a sovereign right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and that “neither concession nor compromise should be allowed.”
Concerns about North Korea’s atomic capability took on renewed urgency in November 2010 when the country disclosed a uranium enrichment facility that could give it a second route to manufacture nuclear weapons, in addition to its existing plutonium-based program.
North Korea has been building a light-water reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex since last year. Such a reactor is ostensibly for civilian energy purposes, but it would give the North a reason to enrich uranium. At low levels, uranium can be used in power reactors, but at higher levels it can be used in nuclear bombs.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters at an international aid forum in the South Korean port city of Busan, didn’t address the North’s statement on uranium. She called the U.S.-South Korean alliance strong and mentioned the recent one-year anniversary of North Korea’s artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island that killed four.