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Pacific News Minute: North Korea Rattles Nuclear Sabers

InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr
InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr
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It's North Korea. Again.

Just last month, North Korea vowed war as tensions escalated along the DMZ.  This week, Pyongyang announced plans to launch long range missiles and improve its nuclear weapons and, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute, you can expect more of the same for the next month.

October 10th is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers Party - a major event in North Korea, and announcements this week have analysts wondering if it might be marked by a long range missile launch, a nuclear weapons test, or maybe both.

On Tuesday, state media reported that the country's main nuclear facilities at Yongbyong have been, quote “rearranged, changed, or readjusted and they started normal operation.”  The reactor at Yongbyong can produce a bomb's worth of plutonium per year, and there are centrifuges there able to manufacture unknown quantities of highly enriched uranium.  North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, has maybe a dozen or so nuclear bombs, but has yet to show that it can make them small enough to fit atop a ballistic missile.

Which highlights Monday's announcement, from an unnamed official that quote “the world will clearly see a series of satellites soaring into the sky."  After a series of failures, North Korea did put a satellite into orbit in late 2012 - 'a scientific mission’, it said, but a pretext for a long range missile test according to the U.S. and the UN Security Council.  The technology involved is nearly identical, and North Korea already claims to have nuclear armed missiles able to hit California.  It could be a long month.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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