DESPITE sweeping pledges of denuclearisation and ongoing negotiations with the United States, North Korea is pushing forward with improvements to the only known nuclear reactor used to fuel its weapons programme, according to monitoring group 38 North.
Satellite imagery from June 21 – nine days after the US-North Korea Summit – show the rapid pace of improvements being made to the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre.
Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace. https://t.co/by1wVsojAZ
— 38 North (@38NorthNK) June 26, 2018
Modifications to the plutonium production reactor’s cooling system appear complete, while the thermal Plant has likely continued operations. A small non-industrial building has been newly erected near the cooling tower and construction continues on support facilities throughout other operational areas of Yongbyon.
Despite the continued activity, 38 North stress this should not be given as an indication of leader Kim Jong Un’s willingness to denuclearise.
“The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang,” the report said.
Kim committed to “complete denuclearisation” at the June 12 summit with US President Donald Trump, and earlier at the Inter-Korean summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Despite Trump hailing the deal as a win and declaring that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat”, critics of the deals have pointed to the lack of timeline or details as to how denuclearisation would occur.
Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
In May, North Korea invited international journalists to witness the demolition of a nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. No experts were present so it is difficult to determine if the damage is irreversible.
Managing Editor of 38 North, Jenny Town, said on Twitter that the continued development at Yongbyon show the need for a more robust deal.
“Infrastructure improvements continue at Yongbyon; underscores reason why an actual deal is necessary, not just a statement of lofty goals,” Town said.
Infrastructure improvements continue at Yongbyon; underscores reason why an actual deal is necessary, not just a statement of lofty goals. https://t.co/7e3HSYw16M
— Jenny Town (@j3nnyt0wn) June 27, 2018
Promises of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula have happened previously in the past, with talks eventually falling apart and Pyongyang swiftly resuming their development of nuclear weapons.
Earlier this year, Kim proclaimed the programme a success, announcing the North now had a nuclear arsenal and weapons capable of striking the US mainland.