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(LEAD) FM: N. Korea's reported reactor project would be violation of U.N. resolutions

All Headlines 16:51 November 15, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES 1-5, last 2 paras with minister's comments; TRIMS)

SEOUL, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's reported construction of a light-water nuclear reactor, if confirmed, would be a violation of U.N. resolutions banning the communist nation from any nuclear activity, South Korea's foreign minister said Monday.

"That would be running counter to U.N. resolutions and it is obvious that it wouldn't be conducive to the current situation," Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters, referring to reports that the North has begun construction of an experimental light-water nuclear reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Kim said that more time is needed to confirm the reports because the North has no experience in building a light-water reactor. The United States has not reached a conclusion whether it is a light-water reactor as reported, Kim said.

An American nuclear expert, Siegfried Hecker, relayed the North's reactor claim after a trip to the country. Hecker, former chief of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, also told reporters during a stopover in Beijing that he heard the output of the reactor is on a scale of 25 to 30 megawatts.

Minister Kim also rejected the North's claims that it has the right to peaceful use of atomic energy, saying it is a right under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT). North Korea quit the pact in 2003, just months after the latest nuclear standoff broke out in late 2002.

The reported construction raised concerns about North Korea's attempt to enrich uranium for weapons because a light-water reactor uses lowly enriched uranium as fuel. If highly enriched, uranium can be used to build atomic bombs. North Korea claimed last year that it succeeded in experimental uranium enrichment.

The North's move to let the world know about the construction could be an attempt to pressure the United States and South Korea to resume the stalled six-nation nuclear negotiations, where the country could get economic and political concessions.

Seoul and Washington have demanded that the North first take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitments if the regime wants to reopen the talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

The nuclear talks have been stalled since the last session in December 2008 due to North Korea's boycott. But the communist regime has signaled in recent months that it is willing to return to the negotiating table amid international sanctions on its nuclear test last year and the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests twice, first in 2006 and the other in 2009, inviting U.N. sanctions resolutions that ban the country from any nuclear and ballistic missile-related activity.

Kim reiterated Seoul's position that firm groundwork should be laid to make sure progress is made if the nuclear talks restart, urging Pyongyang to show its denuclearization commitments through action.

He also said that the South does not oppose a summit with the North if that is necessary for moving inter-Korean relations forward, but the country is not interested in holding a summit without sufficient preparation for progress.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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