WASHINGTON — Faced with the latest news that North Korea remains undeterred in their nuclear ambitions by UN sanctions, the State Department said today the US will “resolve to counter” Kim Jong-un’s actions but “continue to evaluate our options.”
Japan’s Kyodo News reported today that North Korea has openly restarted plutonium production and is on pace to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons “as scheduled.”
“We have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor,” North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute said, a move in response to what Kim views as threats from Washington.
North Korea also hinted that a fifth nuclear test was around the corner and renewed threats against U.S. bases in the Pacific.
“Well, we’re certainly aware of the reports regarding resumed plutonium production. You know, if these reports are correct, it is obviously a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions which prohibit such activities,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
“I would say these actions only serve to increase the international community’s resolve to continue to counter the DPRK, North Korea’s prohibited activities. And that, as you noted, continues — or includes implementing existing UN Security Council sanctions,” he added. “Our commitment to the defense of our allies in the region, and that includes the Republic of Korea, as well as Japan, remains ironclad.”
“We also remain prepared to defend ourselves, as well as our allies. And we call on North Korea once again to refrain from actions that only raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps that will fulfill its international obligations.”
As far as the “next steps or additional steps we might take, I don’t have anything to preview right now.”
“We continue to evaluate our options. But again, our focus has been thus far on, you know, getting these hard-hitting sanctions that managed to get passed through the UN Security Council fully implemented,” Toner said. “And that involves working with our regional partners to implement those sanctions to the fullest extent.”
The spokesman didn’t have any confirmation on whether another nuclear test is imminent, only noting “we’ve seen a pattern, obviously, over the past six months or so that is deeply concerning.”
“We’ve taken steps to try to address that,” added Toner. “We’re going to continue to evaluate our options going forward.”