New satellite images show North Korea is rapidly upgrading its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, it’s only known nuclear reactor used to produce weapon-grade missile material, according to a report by 38 North, a North Korea monitoring group.
The revelations came less than 10 days after the hermit kingdom’s pledge to the United States to denuclearize.
Captured on June 21, the photos show alterations to the cooling system for the plutonium production reactor as well as construction of several support buildings for visiting officials that were reportedly already underway even before President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met on June 12 in Singapore.
The report also stated that “continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea's pledge to denuclearize” but these photos indicate Pyongyang is continuing with his earlier practices when it comes to maintaining its nuclear sites.
North Korea is also reportedly maintaining other nuclear sites where they produce their nuclear weapons and missiles. Although these sites remain undetected by watchdogs, they are assumed to be operational, said Joel Wit, director of 38 North. The country also no longer need to carry full blown nuclear tests to improve its ballistic warheads, said Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNN.
Adam Mount, director of at the Federation of American Scientists also said Kim will continue to support its nuclear program until it reaches specific term with the United States.
The images are in stark contrast to Trump’s declaration that Kim is committed to a “total denuclearization” immediately. The continued upgrade of the Yongbyon site shows that the United States still has a long way to go to convince the hermit kingdom to give up its nuclear program. Many critics at the time of the summit believe it was just a photo-op for the two leaders and in fact, the document that Trump signed with Kim only reiterated North Korea’s previous commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The historic Singapore meeting achieved nothing much and failed to clearly define what denuclearization means or even produce a specific timeline towards denuking the hermit kingdom.
Earlier this year, the despotic dictator of North Korea announced it had successfully created nuclear arsenal capable of striking the U.S. But in May, the country demolished its only nuclear test site at Punggye-ri in an act of goodwill before the summit.
However, since then, Pyongyang has kept its own counsel on the denuclearization issue, although the state-run media has significantly lowered propaganda against the U.S., which it has long-dubbed the “imperialist enemy.”
Banner / Thumbnail : KCNA via Reuters