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MOSCOW, November 3 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea said on Tuesday it had finished the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods and claimed "remarkable achievements" in weaponizing plutonium extracted from them.
The statement, reported by South Korea's Yonhap agency, comes after recent hints by the communist state that it would be prepared to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program in exchange for economic and diplomatic incentives.
Yonhap quoted the North's official Korean Central News Agency as saying that Pyongyang had "successfully completed the reprocessing of 8,000 spent fuel rods" by late August and seen "remarkable achievements in weaponizing the extracted plutonium to strengthen North Korea's nuclear deterrence."
North Korea said in April it would start reprocessing spent fuel rods from its Yongbyon nuclear facility in protest against UN criticism of its long-range rocket launch earlier that month.
Yonhap said in late October, citing South Korean lawmaker Lee Mi-Kyung, that North Korea has 20 nuclear facilities, including 11 at Yongbyon, which has been dismantled under the disarmament deal, and nine uranium producing mines.
The country said on Monday it wants to negotiate first with the U.S. to repair hostile relations before resuming talks with the other parties to the long-running denuclearization talks.
North Korea has invited Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special envoy to Pyongyang, to visit. Washington has yet to officially accept the invitation, but has said bilateral contacts would be an important step towards resuming six-nation talks.
The UN banned imports and exports of nuclear material and all weapons except small arms to and from North Korea following a May 25 nuclear test, after which Pyongyang threatened to build up its nuclear arsenal to counter what it calls hostile U.S. policies.
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