North Korea: return of the nukes

North Korea says it has resumed reprocessing spent fuel rods to produce arms-grade plutonium.

The country says the move will bolster its nuclear deterrence and help counter the increasing military threats from what it calls 'hostile forces'.

After several days of trying to persuade North Korea to rejoin international talks on disarmament, Pyongyang once more showed that global opinion is less important than protecting its own interests.

North Korea says it has started to reprocess spent fuel rods. The consequence could be the production of weapons-grade plutonium used to make nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, North Korea expelled all atomic agency inspectors and also pulled out of international disarmament talks.

“It is very a regrettable outcome of the recent developments, but unfortunately it was predictable,” says Aleksandr Vorontsov, an analyst from the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow.

“North Korea has participated from the very beginning in the six party talks and they have insisted on the equal respect of sovereignty of all parties involved,” he adds.

North Korean representatives say that other countries simply want to curb its technological advances. But the Russian Foreign Minister, who spent two days in Pyongyang this week, says there are other reasons behind the latest decisions.

“As for the obligations adopted during the six-way negotiations in September 2005, which they still haven't fulfilled, it's right to mention the issue of energy carriers compensation deliveries to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Very few of those obliged to do it have fulfilled their obligations,” Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said during a press conference.

The six party talks include North Korea, South Korea, Russia, the U.S., Japan and China.

Lavrov says all parties have to fulfill their obligations before they can persuade North Korea to return to talks.

Despite their repeated announcements not to impose any further sanctions on the country, the UN has now frozen the foreign assets of three North Korean companies, warning its only part of additional measures to be taken in response to their nuclear program.

Some experts believe North Korea doesn’t want a war but simply wants to defend its interests. And blackmailing is not an obstacle.

“North Korea is not preparing for war,” Aleksey Fenenko from the Institute of International Security Studies insists.

“This is the same containment policy used in the 1950s by the Soviet Union against the United States. The USSR said (if we call things by their names): we'll be taking as hostage American bases in Europe and the West European allies of America.

Threatening Washington's allies to put pressure on the United States is the strategy of North Korea,” Fenenko adds.

The Russian government recently reconfirmed that it supports the UN Security Council declaration but opposes tough sanctions against North Korea.

RT’s correspondent Natalya Novikova was one of the few international journalists to gain access to a closed country.

“We were told we were expected to bow in front of the body of the dead President in the mausoleum,” she said.