North Korea says its main nuclear facility, the Yongbyon complex, is now in “normal operation” and the country is improving its nuclear weapons.
The country was improving its nuclear weapons “in quality and quantity”, state-run news agency KCNA reported.
Yongbyon’s reactor was shut down in 2007 but Pyongyang vowed to restart it in 2013, following its third nuclear test and amid high regional tensions.
The reactor has been the source of plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
Experts believe that if re-started, the reactor could make one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year.
The announcement about Yongbyon is the first official confirmation from North Korea that it has restarted operations there.
A US think-tank said earlier this year that satellite images suggested that work had started at the plant.
KCNA said on Tuesday that the North was ready to face US hostility with “nuclear weapons any time”.
However, the full scope of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities is unclear.
Two big claims have been made as the country prepares for the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Workers Party. Firstly, it said the nuclear facility producing material for bombs is fully operational.
Secondly, Pyongyang has indicated it will launch a rocket soon to carry a satellite into space – but the US and South Korea believe it would be a test of a long-range military missile.
Most reliable observers think North Korea already has nuclear material for 12 or so atomic bombs, but may not be able to make those bombs small enough to go on a rocket. Nor has it shown it can send a missile as far as the US (though it has ample ability to hit South Korea).
If it emerged that its rocket technology really had advanced enough to hit California, that would change the calculation completely.
North Korea is indicating it is near that stage, but there is no evidence that this is more than sabre-rattling right now.
Find out more at: North Korea Yongbyon nuclear site ‘in operation’ – BBC News