Fletcher in the News

North Korea Appears to Restart Plutonium Reactor: Professor Lee Comments in the NYT

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

New satellite photographs showing steam emerging from a newly reconstructed nuclear reactor in North Korea suggest that the country may be making good on its promise to resume the production of plutonium for its small nuclear arsenal, six years after it reached an agreement with the Bush administration to dismantle the facility…

…The latest news comes as North Korea has significantly toned down its warlike rhetoric, restoring military hot lines with the South cut off several months ago, and agreeing to restart a jointly run industrial complex shut amid the threats and counterthreats following this year’s nuclear test. It also agreed to restart a program of reuniting Korean families separated by the Korean War.

But analysts said such mixed signals were not unusual, with the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, following a pattern set by his father.

“North Korea’s latest ‘peace offensive’ is almost preordained,” said Lee Sung-yoon, a North Korea specialist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, calling it part of North Korea’s timeworn tactic of raising tensions to remind its adversaries that it is a menace that needs placating, then pushing for economic and diplomatic concessions.

“Through its latest ‘conciliatory’ gestures, it seeks in the short term to bolster Kim Jong-un’s credentials as a ‘statesman,’ ” Mr. Lee said. “In the long term, Pyongyang seeks to advance its strategic interests of improving its ballistic missiles and nuclear arsenal.”

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