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North Korea to restart Yongbyon nuclear reactor

Reuters file

A DigitalGlobe Satellite image shows construction at the North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear complex on Nov. 2010.

SEOUL - North Korea will restart all nuclear facilities including its shuttered Yongbyon nuclear reactor, its official KCNA news service said on Tuesday.

It will rebuild and restart nuclear facilities including its mothballed uranium enrichment facility and the 5 MW Yongbyon reactor which it closed in 2007, KCNA quoted a spokesman at North Korea's atomic energy agency as saying.

It said the nuclear facilities would be used for both electricity and military uses.

Earlier, North Korea's leader appeared to tamp down hostile rhetoric that had threatened impending war with the United States and South Korea in a key speech published Tuesday that implied the isolated country was shifting its focus to development.

Pyongyang has launched relentless verbal attacks and threats against the United States and South Korea since new U.N. sanctions punishing it for its February nuclear test were adopted and during military drills by the South and U.S. forces.

But the speech delivered on Sunday by Kim Jong-Un focused on how nuclear capability supported economic development although it accused the United States of seeking to drag North Korea into an arms race in a bid to hinder its economic improvement.

"It is on the basis of a strong nuclear strength that peace and prosperity can exist and so can the happiness of people's lives," Kim said in the speech delivered to the central committee meeting of the ruling Workers Party of Korea and published in full on Tuesday.

Threats from North Korea have prompted the United States to beef up its forces on the peninsula and station a warship off the Korean peninsula overnight.

US Navy shifts destroyer in wake of North Korea missile threats

North Korea had cut off hotlines between it, the United States, South Korea and the United Nations and threatened to close a joint economic zone it runs with the South. It put its missile forces on full alert and threatened U.S. bases in the Pacific and on the mainland.

Most people in Seoul, South Korea think North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is bluffing, but the question is "why?" Experts say Jong-un is in the process of consolidating power and planning to eliminate his rivals. NBC's Richard Engel reports from Seoul, South Korea.

The North has promised its citizens that it would become a strong and prosperous nation and is moving towards celebrations of the April 15 birthday of its founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader.

"The fact that this was made at the Party central committee meeting, which is the highest policy setting organ, indicates an attempt to highlight economic problems and shift the focus from security to the economy," said Yang Moo-jin of University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

The fortress island fixed in North Korea's sights

The 30-year old Kim, who took office in December 2011, said that no nuclear state had been invaded in modern history and that "the greater the nuclear attack capability, the greater the strength of the deterrent against an invasion."

"Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty," he said. 

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