South Korea's intelligence chief told the parliament Tuesday that North Korea restarted its nuclear reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium in August, ruling party lawmakers said.
National Intelligence Service Director Nam Jae-joon was also quoted as saying that the North tested a long-range rocket engine around that time and recently beefed up naval forces and artillery near the border.
"North Korea has restarted the 5-megawatt reactor to boost its nuclear capabilities," Nam told the National Assembly Intelligence Committee, according to lawmakers Cho Won-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party and Jung Cheong-rae of the main opposition Democratic Party.
"North Korea is seeking to secure status as a nuclear state and gain an upper hand in the Korean Peninsula situation through an unconditional resumption of the six-party talks," he was quoted as saying.
He was confirming recent satellite imagery analyses by a US think tank that Pyongyang has restarted the graphite-moderated reactor in Yongbyon that was closed in 2007 under a denuclearization agreement.
Early this month the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said a Sept. 19 satellite image showed hot water being released through a drainpipe that is part of a cooling system for the megawatt reactor.
Pyongyang in April threatened to resume operation of the facility amid heightening tension.
On Sept. 23, the institute said satellite photos taken in late August suggested North Korea tested a long-range rocket engine which may be the second stage of the Unha-3 Space Launch Vehicle or the second or third stage engine of a much larger rocket under development.