Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said on Tuesday it had completed reprocessing spent fuel rods at its Yongbyon nuclear plant and turned it into arms-grade plutonium, giving the state more material to produce atomic arms.
The announcement comes after the reclusive DPRK, hit with fresh UN sanctions to punish it for a nuclear test in May, has warmed up to the outside world in recent months and indicated it could return to stalled international nuclear talks.
"We have finished reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods as of August. We have made substantial achievements in weaponising plutonium from the extraction," KCNA said.
Experts said the DPRK might be able to produce enough material for at least one more atomic weapon from the spent fuel rods at its Yongbyon plant, which was being taken apart under a sputtering, six-way disarmament-for-aid deal.
The DPRK already had enough fissile material for about six to eight nuclear weapons, experts said.
"They (DPRK) are just telling us that they are biding their time and increasing pressure on the United States ahead of bilateral talks," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the South's University of North Korean Studies.
The DPRK called on Monday for direct talks with its long-time foe, the United States, and gave the clearest signal so far it was ready to return to nuclear disarmament talks it has boycotted for almost a year.