North Korea starts building new nuclear reactor
North Korea has begun building a new nuclear reactor, satellite images have shown, complicating efforts to restart peace talks.
Images taken by the DigitalGlobe satellite at the beginning of November show a rectangular structure being erected at the Yongbyon atomic complex, flanked by at least two construction cranes.
North Korea recently told visiting United States scholars that it intended to build a trial light water nuclear reactor on the site by 2012, before then rolling out larger reactors.
Light water reactors make up the majority of the world's civil nuclear reactors, since they are simpler and cheaper to build than other models.
While the reactor is likely to be used solely to produce electricity, it could be used for making plutonium for nuclear weapons, said the US-based Institute for Science and International Security.
The move to restart construction at Yongbyon also defies calls by the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea for the North to begin to denuclearise.
The six-party talks between the countries and North Korea stalled in late 2008. The new building site is on the grounds of a cooling tower that North Korea razed in June 2008 order to show that it was committed to reducing its nuclear ambitions.
Jack Pritchard, an American nuclear expert who has recently visited Yongbyon, said he was told the new reactor was "experimental in nature".
Meanwhile on Friday, the US Treasury department sanctioned two North Korea firms linked to Office 39, the nebulous North Korean government department thought to be in charge of drug smuggling, money laundering and weapons sales.
The Treasury department said Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation were "key components" of Office 39's financial network.