Obama’s weak foreign policy could cost the United States big – again. Just a day after threatening long-range rocket launches, North Korea declared Tuesday that it has upgraded and restarted all of its atomic fuel plants so it can produce more — and more sophisticated — nuclear weapons.
Of course they’ll be willing to stop — as soon as Obama opens up the American taxpayer wallet and pays up.
Outside analysts see the back-to-back warnings as part of a general North Korean playbook of using claimed improvements in its nuclear and missile programs to push for talks with the United States to provide the impoverished country with concessions and eased sanctions.
In other words, most experts in the region see North Korea’s angry rhetoric as a way to shake Obama down for billions in economic relief and aid.
If America doesn’t pay, analysts say there’s fear in the Obama Administration that each North Korean rocket and nuclear test puts it another big step closer to its stated goal of an arsenal of nuclear-tipped long-range missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland.
North Korea conducted three nuclear tests and a series of steadily improving long-range rocket launches, and some analysts see Tuesday’s announcement as foreshadowing an upcoming fourth nuclear test, which would push North Korea further along in its nuclear aims.
North Korea said Tuesday in its state media that, as it pledged to do in 2013, the plutonium and highly enriched uranium facilities at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex have finally been “rearranged, changed or readjusted and they started normal operation.” It said its scientists had improved “the levels of nuclear weapons with various missions in quality and quantity.”
North Korea, an autocracy run by the same family since 1948, closely controls information about its nuclear program, which it describes as a sovereign right meant to combat U.S. military hostility. As a result, just what is happening at Nyongbyon is unclear. North Korea booted out international inspectors in 2009 under Obama’s watch, and independent assessments by outside experts since then have been spotty.
At various points in the decades-long standoff over its nuclear ambitions, North Korea has said it has shut down or restarted its atomic fuel production. In 2013, it said it would restart a plutonium reactor that had been shuttered under a 2007 disarmament agreement coordinated in part by then-president George W Bush.
On Monday, the North’s aerospace agency said it is ready to launch new satellites aboard long-range rockets as part of celebrations of next month’s ruling communist party anniversary.
The West considers these covers for banned tests of long-range missiles.
The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.
The Associated Press contributed to this story