MOSCOW, October 7 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea's nuclear reactor is thought to likely to be up and running according to a South Korean Foreign Minister, who has dismissed a US think tank's report suggesting that the Yongbyon reactor was shut down by Pyongyang.
"Many believe it is still in operation. On whether the Yongbyon nuclear reactor has been shut down, and on the reasons for the shutdown if it is true, I do not necessarily have the same views as the report," said Yun Byung-se, the Foreign Minister of South Korea, as cited by Yonhap.
A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security on October 3, 2014, stated commercial satellite imagery dated August 27 and September 29, 2014 had indicated the 5 megawatt-electric (MWe) reactor could be shut down "possibly for either partial refueling or renovations." The Institute also pointed out North Korea may be undertaking "the production of weapon-grade plutonium as well as enriched uranium for its nuclear weapons program."
Yonhap stresses that the Yongbyon reactor is capable of producing enough plutonium to make one nuclear bomb a year. According to the media source, plutonium produced by the reactor was used in two of the three nuclear tests (in 2006, 2009 and 2013), carried out by Pyongyang.
Commenting on the report, the International Business Times underscores that North Korea has intensified its missile tests recently, allegedly in response to US-South Korean joint military drills carried out by the countries in August 2014.
It should be also noted that the foreign minister's statement followed a military incident between South and North Korea in the disputed sea area.
"A South Korean naval ship fired warning shots on Tuesday after a North Korean patrol boat crossed a disputed sea border off the peninsula's west coast and fired shots back before retreating," Reuters reported on October 7.
Experts note that the second round of high-level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang planned for late October could now be derailed.