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South Korean Report Says North May Have Reprocessed Nuclear Rods - 2003-07-13


A South Korean news agency reports that North Korea may have completed reprocessing of all of its spent nuclear fuel rods. The news comes as Australia's prime minister says war with North Korea is a possibility.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, quoting a former ruling party lawmaker, says North Korea told U.S. officials last week that Pyongyang finished reprocessing eight thousand spent fuel rods on June 30th.

According to Sunday's report, Pyongyang's United Nations diplomats made the revelation during an informal meeting in New York with a U.S. State Department official.

If true, it means the communist North could extract plutonium to build at least six nuclear weapons within months.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says a lot of work is needed to avoid a war with North Korea, and he worries that the nuclear dispute could turn hostile.

Mr. Howard, speaking to Australia's ABC network said, "you never rule out the possibility of diplomatic actions working" which he called "infinitely preferable to military involvement."

A North Korean official newspaper Saturday said Pyongyang is not opposed to multilateral talks but first wants one-on-one discussions with Washington.

Concern has been mounting since last October when Washington said the North Koreans had admitted violating several international accords to give up efforts to build nuclear weapons.

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