U.N. nuclear assembly urges North Korea to halt any reactor restart

VIENNA Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:48am EDT

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Member states of the U.N. nuclear agency called on North Korea on Friday to halt any move to restart a reactor capable of producing plutonium for bombs, after reports the isolated north Asian state might have done so.

Pyongyang announced in April that it would revive the aged research reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex but stressed it was seeking a deterrent capacity.

Earlier this month, a U.S. research institute and a U.S. official said satellite imagery suggested North Korea has restarted the reactor.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said a satellite image from August 31 shows white steam rising from a building near the hall that houses the reactor's steam turbines and electric generators.

The annual member state meeting of the 159-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted by consensus - which means without a vote - a resolution that "strongly deplores" all of North Korea's nuclear activities.

It urged the country to "halt any actions to restart and readjust, and expand" its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

The Yongbyon reactor has been technically out of operation for years. North Korea destroyed its cooling tower in 2008 as a confidence-building step in talks with South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

When North Korea said it planned to revive the reactor, nuclear experts said it would probably take about half a year to get it up and running, if it had not suffered significant damage from neglect.

North Korea said in July it would not give up its nuclear deterrent until Washington ends its "hostile policy" towards it, although it was ready to revive nuclear talks.

IAEA member states stressed their "desire for a diplomatic resolution ... so as to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula".

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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