Japan probing North Korea reactor rumor

by Jun Hongo

Japan is staying in close contact with other countries regarding reports that North Korea is restoring its nuclear reactors at Yongbyon, Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama said Wednesday in Tokyo.

News sources in the United States said Wednesday that Pyongyang was reinstating the facilities amid diplomatic tensions with Washington. The hermit state suspended its denuclearization process last month.

In threatening to restore the reactor in Yongbyon, North Korea blamed the unwillingness of the U.S. to lift economic sanctions.

“We are aware of the reports. The Japanese government is exchanging information with the countries concerned,” Kodama told a news conference, adding that restoration has not been verified.

“The details of the exchanges with the other countries cannot be disclosed at this point,” he said, though he expressed strong hope that Pyongyang would return to the denuclearization process.

Meanwhile, a senior Foreign Ministry official expressed concern Wednesday about the effect of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s sudden resignation announcement, saying Pyongyang might put off its pledges and delay efforts to resolve the abductions.

Japan and North Korea agreed in mid-August that Pyongyang would reinvestigate what happened to Japanese citizens its agents abducted in the 1970s and ’80s and complete the probe by fall.