(Photo: Reuters/Albert Gea)
In the wake of new international sanctions and perceived hostile military drills by South Korea and its allies, officials in North Korea have revealed their plans on restarting a shuttered nuclear reactor, spurring fears the North's nuclear program could be resuming.
At issue is a nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, which was previously shutdown in 2007 as part of an international aid deal, but officials in Pyongyang announced that it would resume operations at the plant in the latest development concerning North Korea's nuclear program.
In remarks made during a United Nations meeting in Andorra, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that any escalation of the current situation could spell disaster for the international community, especially with the involvement of nuclear weapons.
"Things must begin to calm down; there is no need for the DPRK [North Korea] to be on a collision course with the international community. Nuclear threats are not a game," Ban stated during the news conference.
Meanwhile, leaders in the region have tried to diffuse potentially devastating military action as the use of diplomacy slowly continues.
"The main objective is to avoid the forceful military scenario. It is not acceptable to use the situation there (on the Korean peninsula) to try to reach someone's specific military and political aims," Russia's foreign ministry spokesman Grigoriy Logvinov said in a statement.
The United States has been conducting military readiness drills with South Korea and recently deployed two F-22 stealth fighter jets to the country after North Korea warned the Korean Peninsula had entered "a state of war" over the weekend. The stealth fighters were dispatched to Osan Air Base in South Korea from Japan on Sunday.
"This exercise has been planned for some time and is part of the air component of the Foal Eagle exercise," military spokesman George Little told reporters Monday.
The deployment of stealth fighters and the continued military drills around the Korean peninsula prompted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to reveal the country's top priorities as being their nuclear program and building a stronger economy.
Those declarations come at a time when North Korea has been issuing daily threats regarding any retaliatory strikes should the north feel provoked or threatened.
But in a statement released Sunday, U.S. military officials in South Korea urged North Korea to refrain from making such outlandish threats.
"(North Korea) will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia," the statement read.
Experts do maintain that even if North Korea wanted to resume operations at the nuclear facility it could take anywhere from six months to a year before it is fully functional.