North Korea Nuclear Threat: Crisis On Korean Peninsula ‘Gone Too Far’

By Philip Ross on April 3, 2013 11:50 AM EDT

north korea
North Koreans attend a rally against the U.S. and South Korea in Nampo, North Korea. Pyongyang pledged to restart a nuclear reactor to fuel its atomic weapons program. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the crisis on the Korean Peninsula has “gone too far.” (Photo: Reuters)

North Korea nuclear threat: The crisis on the Korean Peninsula is has reached its boiling point, with North Korea pledging to restart a nuclear reactor in order to feed its atomic weapons program, AFP reports.

"I am deeply troubled ... nuclear threats are not a game," said U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a news conference on Tuesday in Andorra, a microstate in Southwestern Europe.

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"Nuclear threats are not a game," he said during the conference. "Things must calm down, as this situation, made worse by the lack of communication, could lead down a path that nobody should want to follow."

Some world leaders and journalists fear that the crisis on the Korean peninsula could lead, in a worst case scenario, to catastrophic global thermonuclear war. Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February of this year, and Kim Jung Un has threatened both South Korea and the U.S. with preemptive nuclear strikes.

North Korea, furious over joint U.S. and South Korean military operations and the latest round of U.N. sanctions, announced Tuesday that it plans to restart a nuclear reactor in Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea's major nuclear facility. Yongbyon can produce one nuclear bomb's worth of plutonium a year, according to CBC News.

The BBC reports that the reactor at Yongbyon was closed in July 2007 as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal with the U.S. It is reportedly the source for plutonium for North Korea's nuclear weapons program and offers North Korean leaders two ways of making nuclear bombs - A uranium enrichment facility, and a nuclear reactor, from which the expended fuel can be made into plutonium, according to the BBC.

Jonathan Marcus, a BBC diplomatic Correspondent, reports:

North Korea's announcement effectively undoes international efforts to constrain its nuclear program. But restarting the reactor at Yongbyon will take time. Cooling systems have to be re-installed, the reactor fuelled and so on. It could be six months to a year before the reactor is up and running. This will open up a new source of plutonium for North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. has urged China and Russia to pressure Kim Jung Un to change his plans to jumpstart Yongbyon. Furthermore, the U.S. Navy has sent a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, to waters off the Korean Peninsula, a U.S. military official told Press TV. The unnamed official said the move offers the U.S. more missile options should things escalate to that point.

Read more:

North Korea Rockets: Is Kim Jung Un Preparing To Attack US?

North Korea High Alert: Is Nuclear Attack On US Imminent?

US Jets To South Korea: North Korea Says It Has Entered 'State Of War'

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