NKorea on brink of restarting nuclear programme

Thursday, Sept 25, 2008

North Korea was Thursday on the brink of restarting the nuclear weapons programme it shut down 14 months ago under a landmark disarmament deal, as negotiating partners struggled to save the pact.

The communist state has told the UN atomic watchdog it will start work to resume plutonium reprocessing at its Yongbyon complex, possibly within a week. It has barred International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from the reprocessing plant.

Analysts in Seoul say the North is practising brinkmanship in its bitter dispute with the United States over nuclear inspections, but is not necessarily bluffing.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday the North's latest moves "will only deepen their isolation," but insisted that the tortuous six-nation nuclear disarmament talks which began in 2003 are not dead.

"We have been through ups and downs in this process before but I think the important thing is this is a six-party process," she said.

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