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US President Joe Biden. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS
US President Joe Biden. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS

Washington — A UN watchdog report that North Korea appears to have restarted a nuclear reactor reflects an urgent need for dialogue and the US is seeking to address the issue with Pyongyang, a senior administration official said on Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its report dated Friday that the signs of operation at the 5MW reactor, which is seen as capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, were the first to be spotted since late 2018.

“This report underscores the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy so we can achieve the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” the senior administration official said on customary condition of anonymity.

“We continue to seek dialogue with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] so we can address this reported activity and the full range of issues related to denuclearisation.” The US is co-ordinating closely with its allies and partners on developments in North Korea, the official said.

The IAEA report came on the heels of a four-day visit to South Korea by President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim.

That visit came as a brief thaw in inter-Korean relations in July gave way to a new standoff over US-South Korean military exercises that North Korea has warned could trigger a security crisis. The nine-day joint exercise began on August 16.

Kim told reporters in Seoul during his visit that the US has no hostile intent towards North Korea and is open to meeting at any time and any place.

Biden’s administration has said it will explore diplomacy to achieve North Korean denuclearisation, but has shown no willingness to ease sanctions.



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