North Korea has continued to upgrade its only known nuclear reactor used to fuel its weapons program, satellite imagery has shown, despite ongoing negotiations with the US and a pledge to denuclearise.
Infrastructure improvements at the Yongbyon nuclear plant are “continuing at a rapid pace”, according to an analysis by monitoring group 38 North of commercial satellite images taken on 21 June.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has committed to “complete denuclearisation” in meetings with Donald Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in, but the details of how and when that will happen have not yet been decided.
Kim announced earlier this year the the North’s nuclear arsenal and weapons capable of striking the US were complete, and the North closed its only known nuclear test site in May.
38 North is a U.S.-based project that looks to gather the insight of several long-time observers of North Korea. The site, which is perhaps best known for its monitoring of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, is affiliated with experts at both the Stimson Center and non-profit Foreign Policy Research Institute.
“Infrastructure improvements continue at Yongbyon,” Jenny Town, managing editor of 38 North, said via Twitter on Wednesday.
“Underscores reason why an actual deal is necessary, not just a statement of lofty goals,” she added.
The upgrades are thought to include a new cooling water pump house, a number of new buildings, a completed construction on a cooling water reservoir and a possible radiochemical laboratory.
To be sure, 38 North noted that continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any significant impact to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize. Instead, the report says the country can be expected to proceed with “business as usual” until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.
Earlier this month, Kim Jong Un committed to “complete denuclearization” in meetings with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae In. However, critics of the deal said the agreement lacked specific details of exactly how and when that would happen while offering too much to North Korea in return.