- - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

SEOUL — An analyst says a recent satellite image shows that North Korea has completed a key step in the construction of a light-water reactor at its main nuclear complex.

North Korea says the reactor being built at its Yongbyon complex since 2010 is for electricity generation, but some analysts have questioned the North’s intention as the reactor would give the country a reason to enrich uranium that can be used in nuclear bombs.

Allison Puccioni at IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly said in a statement Tuesday that the imagery taken by the GeoEye-1 satellite Aug. 6 showed that a dome had been hoisted atop the reactor building.

She said it may take several more years for the facility to be brought into full operation.

North Korea has vowed to bolster its nuclear capability.

AFGHANISTAN

Rocket shrapnel damages plane of top U.S. general

KABUL — Insurgents fired rockets into an American base in Afghanistan early Tuesday, damaging the parked plane of the visiting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. military said.

The general was safe in his quarters at the time and later left the country aboard another aircraft.

The Taliban were quick to claim the rocket strike, which hit the C-17 military transport plane of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, as another propaganda coup. The militants also have said their fighters shot down a U.S. helicopter that crashed last week, killing seven Americans, though U.S. officials cast doubt on both insurgent claims.

Gen. Dempsey was in Afghanistan to discuss the state of the nearly 11-year-old war as well as a string of disturbing killings of U.S. military trainers by their Afghan partners or militants dressed in Afghan uniform.

UNITED NATIONS

Weather agency calls for global drought policies

GENEVA — The world urgently needs to adopt drought-management policies as farmers from Africa to India struggle with a lack of rainfall and the United States endures its worst drought in decades, top officials with the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday.

The World Meteorological Organization says the U.S. drought and its ripple effects on global food markets show the need for policies with more water conservation and less consumption.

It is summoning ministers and other high-level officials to a March meeting in Geneva, where it will call for systematic measures toward less water consumption and more conservation.

U.S. farmers have experienced one of their worst growing seasons in memory. The annual corn harvest, for example, is much farther along than it ordinarily would be and is expected to produce the least amount of corn since 2006 — despite the most acres of corn planted in more than 70 years — because of unusual triple-digit summer temperatures that disrupted pollination and a severe drought, particularly in the middle of the country.

SOUTH KOREA

S. Korea to resume Iranian oil imports

SEOUL — South Korea will resume imports of Iranian crude next month within levels that comply with U.S. sanctions, government and industry officials said Tuesday as the country tries to manage the pain that diminished oil supplies meant for the domestic economy.

The resumption will make South Korea the latest Asian country to bypass the European Union’s insurance ban on Iranian oil shipments.

In July, the EU ban hit the four key Asian markets for Iranian oil — China, India, Japan and South Korea — which previously were exempted from U.S. penalties after they made significant cuts to their Iranian oil imports.

South Korea is in a difficult position in its dealings with Iran, analysts said. Seoul wants to maintain close ties with its most important ally, the United States, as Washington pushes for tighter sanctions meant to derail Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. But South Korea also needs to keep alive crucial business and energy ties with Iran, whose crude is cheaper than that of other oil exporters.

PUERTO RICO

Police protest, seek salary redress

SAN JUAN — Hundreds of police officers in Puerto Rico took to the streets to demand higher salaries and the payment of back wages.

Police accuse the government of not honoring several laws, including one that would give them an additional $200 a month. The officers were planning to file a complaint Tuesday with an appeals court.

Puerto Rico has the second-largest police force of any U.S. jurisdiction, with some 17,000 officers. The department has come under fire because of a record number of homicides last year.

Federal prosecutors also have accused the department of corruption and civil rights violations, and the American Civil Liberties Union has filed two lawsuits related to those complaints.

From wire dispatches and staff reports