World Wrap

North Korea to reopen nuclear plant

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
April 2, 2013

North Korea plans to revive a defunct nuclear plant, a blaze kills 13 children in Myanmar, and Cyprus’ foreign minister steps down. Today is Tuesday, April 2, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A combination photo shows a cooling tower being demolished at a North Korean nuclear plant in Yongbyon, in this photo taken June 27, 2008, and released by Kyodo. REUTERS/Kyodo

North Korea tones down bluster, plans to restart Soviet-era reactor. North Korea plans to rebuild and reopen a nuclear reactor that was shuttered in 2007 and partially destroyed in 2008. In restarting the plant, Pyongyang said it wants nuclear power as an energy source and war deterrent:

As well as restarting the 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon, the North’s only known source of plutonium for its nuclear weapons program, KCNA [Korea Central News Agency] said a uranium enrichment plant would also be put back into operation. The nuclear plant’s output would be used to solve what KCNA termed an “acute shortage of electricity” and to bolster “the nuclear armed force.”

North Korea recently said it was on the brink of war with South Korea, and instructed its military to be on standby to strike targets in the United States. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman expressed regret at the North’s decision to open the reactor, which goes against China’s goal of restarting denuclearization talks on the Korean peninsula. It is unclear how long it will take to restart the reactor, or whether it is connected to North Korea’s aging electricity grid.

Myanmar blaze kills Muslim schoolchildren. A fire killed thirteen 12-year-old boys sleeping in a dormitory in a Muslim school in Yangon, Myanmar. According to the fire service, the blaze was caused by faulty electrical equipment, a major cause of fires in the region. But Myanmar has been hit with a spate of anti-Muslim violence, and some fear the fire was a targeted attack:

[A]gainst the background of the recent sectarian violence, many Muslims were “very suspicious” about the latest fire, said Mya Aye, a Muslim member of the 88 Generation Students’ pro-democracy group. “We are worried and sad because innocent children died,” he said.

The dormitory’s neighbors and witnesses said the front doors of the building may have been locked and windows barred because of security concerns following recent unrest. Buddhist-led violence has claimed 43 lives since the conflict began on March 20 in a Meikhttila town.

Cyprus finance minister resigns amid investigation. Cypriot Finance Minister Michael Sarris resigned today as more details on Cyprus’ 10 billion euro bailout plan emerged:

[Sarris] said it was  appropriate to resign since he was among several people under scrutiny by a team of investigators looking into the collapse of the country’s banking system. His resignation was accepted by the government.

Cyprus announced a partial relaxation of capital controls. The island’s finance ministry raised the ceiling on transactions that don’t need the central bank’s approval from 5,000 to 25,000 euros. Cyprus must meet conditions set by the bailout by 2018. The island will begin receiving aid in May and have 12 years to repay loans.

Nota Bene: March was the deadliest month in Syria’s two-year conflict, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Standouts:

Sound familiar? - A rising Pakistani politician is campaigning on hope and change. (The Atlantic)

Two-wheels forward - Saudi Arabian women are now allowed to ride bicycles in recreational areas. (Al Jazeera)

Banking disunion - Reuters columnist Hugo Dixon argues that the Cyprus bailout leaves the euro zone’s banking union up in the air. (Reuters)

Mass poisoning protest -  University students in Cairo are entering a second day of food poisoning protests. (BBC)

Real reporting - A new Syrian newspaper hopes to deliver fair reporting on a crisis that has relied largely on activist accounts. (The New York Times)

From the File:

  • Kurdish peace process in Turkey faces impasse over militant withdrawal
  • Putin signs law to allow him to pick Russian governors
  • Ukraine opposition protests, court hears Tymoshenko ally appeal
  • Italy president says “wise men” should finish work in 10 days
  • Palestinian Hamas Islamists re-elect Meshaal as leader

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