A day after threatening long-range rocket launches, North Korea declared Tuesday that it has upgraded and restarted all of its atomic fuel plants so it can produce more — and more sophisticated — nuclear weapons. Neither announcement was entirely unexpected, and outside analysts see the back-to-back warnings as part of a general North Korean playbook of using claimed improvements in its nuclear and missile programs to push for talks with the United States that could eventually provide the impoverished country with concessions and eased sanctions.

But the threats could deepen a standoff between North Korea and the U.S. and its allies because they strike at Washington’s fear that each North Korean rocket and nuclear test puts it another big step closer to its stated goal of an arsenal of nuclear-tipped long-range missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland. FULL REPORT