North Korea has announced it is operating what it says are “thousands” of centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant.
It is the first detailed admission of the secretive state’s expanded nuclear capability and will ratchet up already heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Internal struggles over the succession of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il may well be the reason for the provocation. Analysts claim the defiance to international pressure is for its domestic audience.
It follows last week’s artillery barrage of a South Korean island which killed four people.
The moves will add to calls on China to rein in its ally and with the recent leaks of US diplomatic messages revealing Beijing is ready to ditch its friend, Pyongyang may be set for an increasingly isolated future.
The US and South Korea are currently holding joint military exercises off the peninsula’s west coast in a show of force which they say is to prevent Pyongyang from staging further acts of aggression.