North Korea still upgrading nuclear site at ‘rapid pace,’ satellite images show

North Korea still upgrading nuclear site at ‘rapid pace,’ satellite images show

Despite Kim Jong Un's pledge to denuclearize peninsula in summit with Trump, monitor says June 21 images tell a different story

The Yongbyon nuclear facility (W. Keith Luse, public domain)
The Yongbyon nuclear facility (W. Keith Luse, public domain)

SEOUL, South Korea — Satellite images show that North Korea is carrying out rapid improvements to its nuclear research facility, a monitor said on Wednesday, despite the country declaring a commitment to denuclearization of the peninsula at the Singapore summit.

The nuclear-armed North’s leader Kim Jong Un promised to “work toward” the goal at a landmark summit in the city-state earlier this month with US President Donald Trump.

But the Singapore meeting failed to clearly define denuclearization or produce a specific timeline towards dismantling the North’s atomic weapons arsenal.

Trump claimed the process would start quickly, saying last week that “it will be a total denuclearization, which is already taking place.”

US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands following a signing ceremony during their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

But recent satellite imagery showed that not only were operations continuing at present at the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear site, it was also carrying out infrastructure works, said the respected 38 North website.

“Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at… Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace,” it said.

It noted “continued operations” at the North’s uranium enrichment plant and several new installations at the site — including an engineering office and a driveway to a building housing a nuclear reactor.

But continued operations at the site “should not be seen as having any relationship with North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize,” it added.

Nuclear officials could be “expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang,” it said.

The North last month blew up its aged but only nuclear test site at Punggye-ri — where it had staged six atomic tests — in a show of goodwill before the summit.

But Pyongyang has kept its counsel on the denuclearization issue since the meeting, although state media have dialed down propaganda against the US, long dubbed the “imperialist enemy.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been pushing for more follow-up talks to flesh out details over denuclearization, but no date has been set for when they would take place.

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