N. Korea nuclear quagmire deepens

North Korea's escalating nuclear threat is posing a trickier conundrum to Seoul and Washington, prompting calls for a big change in their strategy for deterrence and denuclearization of the communist foe.

During a key parliamentary session Sunday, Pyongyang adopted a policy of concurrently pursuing economic development and nuclear armament. On Tuesday it unveiled a plan to restart the 5-megawatt graphite-moderated nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

The communist state already defined itself as a nuclear-armed state in a constitutional amendment last year.

"In realistic terms, both Seoul and Washington may have to acknowledge the North's current nuclear status to a certain extent, should there be negotiations with it later, albeit highly unlikely for now," said Ahn Chan-il, director of the World North Korea Research Center.

"With the constitutional revision and after the third nuclear test on Feb. 12, Pyongyang is unlikely to abandon nuclear programs. The contours of the future negotiations have apparently changed."

With the reactivation of the two-decade-old nuclear reactor, experts believe some 7 kilograms of plutonium can be extracted to build one atomic bomb each year. They also pointed out given its old age, it may be able to extract only half its production capacity.

The reactor was suspended in 2007 under the so-called October 3 agreement at the multilateral denuclearization talks, which stipulates economic compensation and other benefits to Pyongyang in return.

Experts said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had various motives with regard to his regime's pursuit of a nuclear power state.

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