North Korea claimed Tuesday it has reactivated "normal operation" at its atomic bomb fuel fabrication plants and that it is prepared to use nuclear weapons against "hostile forces" in the international community, including the United States.
According to USA Today, North Korea said via state media that its plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities at the Yongbyon fuel fabrication plant have been "rearranged, changed, or readjusted and they started normal operation."
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The country alleged it is ready at "any time" to use nuclear weapons against nations that pursue "reckless hostile policy" toward North Korea.
"If the U.S. and other hostile forces persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and behave mischievously, the DPRK is fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons any time," the North Korean Atomic Energy Institute director said in statement carried by the KCNA news agency, CNN reported.
The claims follow statements made by the country Monday that its space agency is planning to launch a new satellite in honor of the 70th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on Oct. 10, indicating preparations for a long-range missile launch.
On Tuesday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry called the potential long-range rocket launch a "serious provocation" and a military threat and said it would represent a violation of U.N. resolutions, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
The defense ministry spokesman reiterated that no "particular signs" of missile launch preparations have been seen. North Korea insists the rocket launches are part of a space program to put satellites into orbit.
Though U.N. Security Council resolutions bar North Korea from using ballistic missile technology in tests, the country has pushed forward with missile and nuclear programs amid warnings and sanctions from the international community.
Satellite imagery captured in late 2014 and early 2015 appeared to show that North Korea has activated a second uranium centrifuge hall at its Yongbyon fuel fabrication plant. If operational, the second centrifuge hall could double North Korea’s ability to produce weapons-grade uranium.