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Top US commander warns N. Korea ‘I’m ready 24/7, 365’ if missile is launched

A TOP US military commander has issued a chilling warning to North Korea and said “I’m ready 24/7, 365” if a missile is launched.

Gen. Glen VanHerck said America “continues to be ready to respond, should North Korea elect to launch a missile”, in a briefing on Friday.

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Gen. Glen VanHerck said ‘I’m ready 24/7, 365’ if a missile is launched.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

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North Korean leader Kim Jong UnCredit: AP
Gen. VanHerck had been responding to a question on 'a report on the restart of North Korea's nuclear reactors'
Gen. VanHerck had been responding to a question on ‘a report on the restart of North Korea’s nuclear reactors’

He told reporters in a Department of Defense press briefing: “I’m ready 24/7, 365, if…North Korea decides to launch a ballistic missile.  

“I’m confident in our capabilities.  

“We continue to be ready to respond, should North Korea elect to launch a missile.”

Gen. VanHerck had been responding to a question on “a report on the restart of North Korea’s nuclear reactors.”

That came after watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency said the country appear to have restarted operations at its nuclear reactor that’s been shut down for three years.

The plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon has stood inactive since December 2018 – but last month was reportedly seen discharging cooling water.

Plutonium – one of the two key ingredients used to build nuclear weapons along with highly enriched uranium – is produced at the complex, which has a 5-megawatt reactor.

“Since early July, there have been indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation of the reactor,” the agency’s annual report on North Korea’s nuclear activity reads.

It also notes that the Yongbyon reactor appears to have been inactive from December 2018 until the beginning of July this year.

‘DEEPLY TROUBLING’

In 2009 the IAEA was expelled by Pyongyang, and so hasn’t had access to Yongbyon or other locations in North Korea since inspectors were kicked out. The agency said it uses satellite imagery and open source information to monitor developments in the country’s nuclear program.

The report also said there were indications of the operation at Yongbyon’s radiochemical laboratory – where plutonium is extracted by reprocessing spent fuel rods removed from reactors – from mid-February to early July this year.

Apparent activity at both the reactor and laboratory have been branded “deeply troubling” by the IAEA, which added that developments are a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions.

The complex, which North Korea calls the heart of its nuclear program and research, has been at the centre of international concerns for decades.

It’s not clear exactly how much weapons-grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium has been produced at Yongbyon and where North Korea stores it.

DEAL OFF

In early 2019, Kim offered to dismantle the entire complex if he won extensive sanctions relief during a summit with then-President Donald Trump. But the Americans rejected Kim’s offer because it would only be a partial surrender of his nuclear capability.

North Korea is believed to be running multiple other covet uranium enrichment facilities. According to a South Korean estimate in 2018, North Korea might already have manufactured 20-60 nuclear weapons as well.

In recent months, the country has warned it would expand its nuclear program if the United States doesn’t withdraw its hostile policy on the North, in an apparent reference to US-led sanctions and regular US-South Korean military drills.

DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN?

Earlier this month, Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, said North Korea would bolster “absolute deterrence” to cope with intensifying US threats.

It comes after experts warned Yongbyon nuclear reactor could be another Fukushima-style disaster waiting to happen after the plant was damaged by storms last year.

Topics also discussed in the briefing included Covid assistance, help fighting wildfires on the west coast and Afghanistan.

The plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon has stood inactive since December 2018 - but last month was reportedly seen discharging cooling water

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The plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon has stood inactive since December 2018 – but last month was reportedly seen discharging cooling waterCredit: Reuters

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