U.S. Intel Chief Confirms Growing North Korean Reactor Relaunch

An activist takes part in an anti-North Korea demonstration last year in Seoul. U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper on Wednesday backed independent reports that Pyongyang appears to have restarted a reactor capable of producing nuclear-weapon plutonium.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Jan. 29, 2014, 9:46 a.m.

North Korea ap­pears to have re­star­ted a So­viet-era plutoni­um pro­duc­tion re­act­or, the top U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial told law­makers on Wed­nes­day.

Find­ings also sug­gest that the isol­ated state is “ex­pand­ing the size” of a nearby urani­um-en­rich­ment cent­ri­fuge plant, Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence Dir­ect­or James Clap­per told the Sen­ate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee in a yearly threat as­sess­ment. The ap­par­ent moves ap­peared to fall in line with North Korea’s stated in­ten­tion to ex­pand op­er­a­tions for gen­er­at­ing nuc­le­ar-bomb fuel, and with in­de­pend­ent re­ports of new activ­it­ies at its Yongby­on nuc­le­ar com­plex over the last year.

“We have long as­sessed that, in Py­ongy­ang’s view, its nuc­le­ar cap­ab­il­it­ies are in­ten­ded for de­terrence, in­ter­na­tion­al prestige and co­er­cive dip­lomacy,” Clap­per stated in pre­pared com­ments. “We do not know Py­ongy­ang’s nuc­le­ar doc­trine or em­ploy­ment con­cepts.”

Sur­veil­lance im­ages of Yongby­on from last sum­mer showed steam rising from a fa­cil­ity near North Korea’s graph­ite-mod­er­ated re­act­or, sug­gest­ing the plutoni­um site had re­launched, ac­cord­ing to a Septem­ber ana­lys­is by the ex­pert web­site “38 North.”

The likely ex­pan­sion of North Korea’s urani­um-cent­ri­fuge plant came to light in an Au­gust ana­lys­is by the In­sti­tute for Sci­ence and In­ter­na­tion­al Se­cur­ity, a think tank in Wash­ing­ton. The or­gan­iz­a­tion poin­ted to fur­ther activ­ity near the site in a Decem­ber re­port, but said the ob­ject­ives of the work could not “con­clus­ively be iden­ti­fied.”

Sep­ar­ately, Clap­per called at­ten­tion to North Korea’s fo­cus on “de­vel­op­ing long-range mis­sile tech­no­logy that is cap­able of pos­ing a dir­ect threat to the United States.”

Py­ongy­ang ap­pears to have “already taken ini­tial steps” to de­ploy its KN-08 in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile, though the weapon “re­mains un­tested,” he said in the re­port.

In an Oc­to­ber ana­lys­is of satel­lite pho­tos, in­de­pend­ent ex­perts said North Korea’s Dongchang-ri mis­sile com­plex ap­peared to be host­ing con­struc­tion of a new mo­bile-mis­sile launch pad cap­able of test-fir­ing the KN-08.

Clap­per said North Korea has “dis­played” the weapon on two oc­ca­sions. In­de­pend­ent ob­serv­ers, though, judge past show­ings of the weapon to have in­volved rep­licas of grow­ing soph­ist­ic­a­tion.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
10 hours ago

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Trump Cancels Rallies
19 hours ago

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
1 days ago

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

RNC’s Spicer to Work from Trump HQ
1 days ago

"Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican party will coordinate more closely going forward, with the GOP's top communicator and chief strategist Sean Spicer increasingly working out of Trump campaign headquarters, the campaign confirmed Sunday."

Manafort Resigns from Trump Campaign
4 days ago

In a statement released Friday morning, the Trump campaign announced that Paul Manafort has resigned as campaign chairman. The move comes after fresh questions had been raised about Manafort's work in Russia and Ukraine, and Trump brought in Stephen Bannon "as a de facto demotion for Manafort."