Since early April’s declaration from North Korea that it has shut down its only functioning reactor and plans to unload the fuel for reprocessing into weapons-grade plutonium tensions have been high. Shutting down the reactor at Yongbyon will mean that it will be able to extract at least two bombs’ worth of plutonium contained in its spent fuel.

China is once again being urged to play a role in bringing North Korea back to the table following the North’s boycott of six nation talks since June 2003 with South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

America has warned that the drive to nuclear weapons could be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, a step North Korea has suggested is equivalent to a declaration of war.

Senior military players in the Stalinist country have reportedly stated that the country intends to steadily bolster its nuclear deterrent. Meanwhile, reports from the USA have suggested that the country may be preparing to detonate a nuclear device. Intelligence officials suggest that Pyongyang possesses one or two crude nuclear bombs made from plutonium diverted from the reactor in previous decades.