By Samuel Burke, CNN
After weeks of bellicose rhetoric, North Korea announced Tuesday that it will restart a nuclear reactor it had shut more than five years ago.
Siegfried Hecker, one of the world's most prominent nuclear scientists, was one of the last Western observers to visit the Yongbyon nuclear complex. He believes that the North Koreans could restart the plant within six months to a year.
“They would have to rebuild the cooling tower, they would also have to prepare the fresh fuel to put in, but in my opinion it could be done in six months to a year’s time,” Hecker told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview on Tuesday.
Hecker is the former director of United States' Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Amanpour reported from Yongbyon in 2008, which North Korean officials made a big show of shutting down – the cooling tower was blown up in front of television cameras.
She asked Hecker if the North Koreans had deceived the world at that time. FULL POST
South Korea’s Ambassador to the U.N. Kim Sook told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that a war with North Korea is “always possible, but at that moment whether it is practically possible: rather negative.”
Ambassador Kim said war is unlikely because South Korea has experienced this very situation many times in the past.
“The high level of rhetoric and this time around invectives – we have seen many times before,” Kim said. Though, the ambassador admitted that the level of this language and “slandering” – as Kim put it –is different this time around.
“But people in Seoul and by and large the South Korean people are not in panic, they don’t expect a war could happen anytime soon,” Kim said.
South Korea just elected a new President, Park Geun-hye, who is also the country’s first female president. Ambassador Kim dismissed the fact that she has been characterized as a largely untested leader, saying that new presidents have been tested before with these types of situations upon taking office in South Korea.
North Korea has made personal attacks against President Park, referencing her gender.
“The female president does not necessarily mean she is weak. She is politically very solid,” Kim said. Adding, “We leave nothing to chance.”
Ambassador Kim also emphasized that talking with their neighbors is still on the table.
“Dialogue is by and large the first and foremost way to engage North Korea,” he said.