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(3rd LD) N. Korea to push ahead with uranium enrichment over U.N. sanctions

All Headlines 17:11 June 13, 2009

(ATTN: RECASTS lead, headline; UPDATES throughout; USES N. Korean statement in English; RESTRUCTURES; ADDS background)
By Sam Kim

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed Saturday to go ahead with uranium enrichment -- a second track to developing a nuclear bomb -- and weaponize all new plutonium it produces, denouncing a U.N. Security Council resolution that ratcheted up sanctions on it.

"The process of uranium enrichment will be commenced," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The North, which drew condemnations from around the world after its second nuclear test on May 25, said it has made "enough success" in developing uranium enrichment technology and is experimenting.

North Korea has long been accused of running a covert uranium enrichment program, which would provide the communist state with another way to build nuclear arms on top of reprocessing plutonium.

South Korea believes the North has about 40 kilograms of plutonium, enough to produce at least six bombs. The North said Saturday it will "weaponize" all new plutonium it extracts, adding that "more than one third of the spent fuel rods has been reprocessed to date."

Spent fuel rods are reprocessed to produce the plutonium needed to build nuclear bombs after undergoing irradiation in a reactor.

Following an earlier U.N. condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch -- which Pyongyang alone claims put a satellite in space -- North Korea expelled international monitors from its nuclear reactor facility north of Pyongyang and vowed to restore operations there.

"It has become an absolutely impossible option for the DPRK to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons," the North said, blaming the U.S. for its conclusion.

"This is yet another vile product of the U.S.-led offensive of international pressure," it said, arguing it "has never chosen but was compelled to go nuclear."

In response to Resolution 1874, which also calls on U.N. member states to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying weapons materials, North Korea said it will consider any outside attempt to impose a blockade on it as an act of war.

"An attempted blockade of any kind by the U.S. and its followers will be regarded as an act of war and met with a decisive military response," it said.

North Korea conducted its first test in October 2006. In response, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1718, imposing an array of sanctions on arms and luxury trade by the isolated North.


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