A day after threatening rocket launches, North Korea declared today that it has revamped and restarted all its atomic bomb fuel production plants. The back-to-back announcements—which many outside analysts consider threats designed to spur talks with the US that could eventually provide impoverished North Korea with concessions—will push Pyongyang further toward a standoff with Washington and its allies. The North said in its state media that its plutonium and highly enriched uranium facilities at the main Yongbyon nuclear complex had been "rearranged, changed, or readjusted and they started normal operation."
The director of the North Korean Atomic Energy Institute told state media today that the country's nuclear weapons are getting better in "quality and quantity" and Pyongyang is ready to use them "any time" against "the US and other hostile forces" if they persist with "reckless" policies, CNN reports. Yesterday, Pyongyang warned that it's ready to launch "satellites" aboard long-range rockets that the West considers banned—long-range missiles meant to eventually threaten America's mainland with atomic bombs. The North says the launches will mark the ruling communist party's anniversary next month, although South Korea's Defense Ministry says it has seen no sign such launches are being prepared. (Read more Yongbyon stories.)