Seoul: Secretive North Korea detailed for the first time its expanded nuclear program Tuesday, saying it had thousands of centrifuges as pressure built on China to rein in its ally amid heightened tensions on the peninsula.
Nuclear-armed Pyongyang's revelations about its uranium enrichment, which gives it a second route to make a nuclear bomb, came a week after it fired a barrage of artillery shells at a South Korean island, killing four people including two civilians.
"Currently construction of a light-water reactor is in progress actively and a modern uranium enrichment plant equipped with several thousands of centrifuges, to secure the supply of fuels, is operating," the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported.
"Nuclear energy development projects will become more active for peaceful purpose in the future," added the paper, according the state news agency KCNA.
Seoul said South Korea, Japan and the United States will hold talks in Washington in early December to discuss the North's expanded nuclear program, the attack on Yeonpyeong island and a Chinese proposal for emergency talks.
Japan's Nikkei news agency said they would meet on December 6.
The United States wants China to use its leverage to restrain its ally North Korea, which fired a barrage of artillery shells at the island in the first attack on civilians on South Korean soil since the end of the Korean war in 1953.
China has proposed to hold a summit meeting of the six parties which have been trying to rein in North Korea's nuclear program. Russia and North Korea are part of that group.
The U.S. and South Korean militaries started a third day of large-scale joint exercises off the peninsula's west coast on Tuesday in a show of force they say is meant to deter Pyongyang from staging further provocations.
Relations between China and North Korea, once described as being as close as "lips and teeth," have soured in recent years, especially since Pyongyang held nuclear test blasts in 2006 and again this year in May.
But North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said last week that his isolated country's friendship with China was "unbreakable."
First Published: Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 10:05