More petulance from Pyongyang this morning, as Kim III’s regime announced that it is restarting the plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon that it shuttered in 2007. The Norks’ neighbors are none too pleased:
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing that China has “expressed our regret” over Pyongyang’s declaration. Mr. Hong said the situation on the Korean peninsula was “sensitive and complex” and called on relevant authorities “to keep talking and exercise restraint.” But he reiterated Beijing’s previous hesitant approach on international sanctions, saying they “cannot solve the problem fundamentally.”South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman called Pyongyang’s announcement “very regrettable.”“We urge North Korea to live up to the promises it has made in the past and sustain denuclearization on the Korean peninsula,” Choi Tai-young said at a regular news conference.
It’s notable that of all the threats and bluster coming out of the Hermit Kingdom in the past few weeks this is probably the most symbolic tantrum. Experts estimate that it could take several months just to restart the reactor, and much longer still to get it producing plutonium for use in bombs. Nevertheless, the Norks are now saying that their nuclear arsenal is nonnegotiable, which is strong language for a move which analysts see as an attempt to force negotiations with the West.
Whatever game the Norks are playing, they seem committed to it. In no way is this a quarrel the White House seeks, but it also seems not to know how to avoid it.