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Senior U.S. State Department Official: North Korea Has Restarted Plutonium Fuel Production

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"Everything in North Korea is a cause for concern."

A man watches a TV news program reporting about a missile launch of North Korea, at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 31, 2016. A North Korean missile launch likely failed on Tuesday, according to South Korea's military, the latest in a string of high-profile failures that tempers somewhat recent worries that Pyongyang was pushing quickly toward its goal of a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach America's mainland. The letters read on top left, "Fail, North Korea's Musudan missile." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

A senior official with the U.S. State Department reportedly told Reuters that North Korea has restarted plutonium fuel production, a sign that the reclusive East Asian county could be looking to reignite its nuclear weapons program.

The claim came on Tuesday months after international sanctions were tightened and just one day after the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that there are indications that North Korea reopened a plutonium production plant.

"As we do not have inspectors on the ground we are only observing through satellite imagery. We cannot say for sure," IAEA head Yukiya Amano said in an address to media. "But we have indications of certain activities through the satellite imagery."

Officials fear that North Korea could be stocking up in an effort to build nuclear warheads — a serious concern considering the nation's restrictive and reclusive nature. It's a situation that intelligence agencies are reportedly closely monitoring.

"Everything in North Korea is a cause for concern," the official said in an interview with Reuters. "They take the spent fuel from the 5 megawatt reactor at Yongbyon and let it cool and then take it to the reprocessing facility, and that's where they've obtained the plutonium for their previous nuclear tests. So they are repeating that process."

Considering that the IAEA has no staff on the ground in North Korea, the regime's potential nuclear activities are monitored by the U.N. watchdog via satellite.

Read more here.

(H/T: Reuters)

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