N. Korean nuclear restart would be "serious" if true: U.S. envoy

A visiting U.S. special envoy on North Korea said Thursday that the reported reactivation of a nuclear reactor by North Korea, if confirmed, would be a "very serious matter," a "misstep" and a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions passed against the country's nuclear activities.

The official, Glyn Davies, told reporters that he discussed the matter with his Japanese counterpart Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, during a meeting in Tokyo.

Davies said that if North Korea has in fact restarted the reactor, which was previously used to produce plutonium, it "flies in the face of North Korea's own commitments and promises they've made over the years," demanding that North Korea stop restarting its nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

"We are watching this very closely," he added.

Washington says Pyongyang needs to take concrete action toward denuclearization before North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States can resume the so-called six-party talks, which are aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

On Thursday, Davies stressed that the suspended negotiations must pursue denuclearization if they resume but indicated that the talks, which have been stalled since late 2008, are unlikely to resume for now because of North Korea's own agenda.

"It seems clear that North Korea is attempting to make these talks, when and if they occur in the future, about something very different, which is about their right to be a nuclear weapons state," he said. "That is not something we can accept."

Davies noted that apart from North Korea, the countries involved in the six-party talks have a consensus that the framework should be about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, expressing hope that Pyongyang will return to the negotiating table to pursue the goal.

A U.S. research institute said Wednesday that North Korea may be restarting a reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, based on satellite imagery showing what appeared to be steam rising from a building that houses turbines and generators connected to the reactor.

The graphite-moderated reactor, which is believed to have been used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, was shut down under a 2007 agreement reached at the six-party talks.