North Korean officials earlier this month gave an American team led by nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker a tour of the plant at the same complex north of Pyongyang where a five-megawatt reactor has produced plutonium for what intelligence analysts estimate is a dozen nuclear devices.
The article in the Rodong Sinmun, the first official revelation in the North Korean state media, appeared to have been timed to coincide with US-led naval exercises concluding Wednesday in the Yellow Sea. It does not clarify, however, whether the new reactor is to produce electrical energy or to fabricate the explosive core of nuclear warheads.
“Nuclear energy development projects will become more active for peaceful purpose in the future,” it says, but that wording leaves open the possibility that the immediate goal is to produce warheads more powerful than those tested underground in October 2006 and May 2009.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official, Lim Jung-taek, calls North Korea’s boast of building the reactor “quite worrisome” – and “a violation” of United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions after each of the tests.