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North Korea will need at least a year to resume
North Korea will need at least a year to resume its nuclear program and start producing weapons-grade plutonium, Russian experts said on Friday.

North Korea announced on Tuesday it was ceasing all cooperation with the IAEA and pledged to restart work at its Yongbyon reactor. The move, and Pyongyang's withdrawal from six-party talks on its nuclear program, came in response to UN condemnation of its launch of a rocket on April 5.

The IAEA said on Thursday that its inspectors had left North Korea, while Xinhua reported that four U.S. experts flew out of Pyongyang on Friday.

"About three months will be needed to bring on line the 5-MW reactor at the Yongbyon research center and restart a disabled cooling tower. But it will take a year to produce weapons-grade plutonium," Vladimir Yevseyev, a research associate at the Center for International Security, told a video conference hosted by RIA Novosti.

He did not say how much plutonium North Korea would be able to produce in a year.

Other experts suggested that Pyongyang's ultimate goal is to achieve political, not military results, and that it is seeking bilateral talks with the United States.

"If this happens, tactical issues will soon be resolved, and then the nuclear missile problem will be addressed," said Alexander Fedorovsky, section head at the Center for Asia Pacific Studies.

He said it was critical to restart six-nation talks, in order to establish an integrated security system in Northeast Asia.

Russia has called for the resumption of the talks, involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to visit Pyongyang next week to make the case in person.

The United States, Japan and other countries had argued for sanctions against Pyongyang, saying that the rocket launch violated Security Council Resolution 1718, but Russia and China called for restraint on the grounds that the resolution does not prohibit the launch of satellites.

Although critics believed the launch was a test of a ballistic missile, the North Koreans said they put a satellite into orbit, a claim dismissed by the U.S. and South Korean militaries.


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