North Korea begins reassembling nuclear facility: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - North Korea has begun reassembling its Yongbyon reactor that can make material for atomic bombs in violation of U.S. conditions for improved diplomatic relations, media reported.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said reconstruction began on Monday. It cited sources in Beijing close to six-party nuclear talks on North Korean, which involve Japan, South Korea, Russia and China, as well as North Korea and the United States.

North Korea said on August 26 it would stop disabling its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear complex and accused the United States of violating a disarmament-for-aid deal.

Fox News, quoting U.S. officials, said the North Koreans were likely protesting a U.S. delay in removing the communist state from its list of terrorist-sponsoring nations.

Fox did not give details of the reassembly work nor did it cite a North Korean source.

"They've been threatening this move for some time," one U.S. official told Fox, adding that until now the threats were seen as merely a way for North Korean officials "to express their anger".

Even now, piecing the facility back together is seen as a "symbolic gesture" because so much already has been taken apart, Fox reported.

Another U.S. official told Fox News that North Korea's reactor could be back in operation in two to three months.

North Korea began disabling its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor and other facilities at its Yongbyon facility in November as a step toward their ultimate dismantlement in exchange for economic aid and political concessions, including removal from the U.S. terror list.

Fox said the United States said in June that it would take North Korea off the terror list after Pyongyang turned in a long-delayed account of its nuclear programs and blew up the cooling tower at the reactor.

(Reporting by Philip Barbara; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)