North Korea is upgrading a major nuclear research facility despite President Donald Trump’s claim that leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to disarm, according to new satellite images and a research paper published by a North Korea monitoring group.
Experts at 38 North, a website affiliated with the Stimson Center in Washington D.C. devoted to analysis of North Korea, concluded the images show that “improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace.”
The satellite images are from June 21.
That’s less than two weeks after Trump boasted of a diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program after decades of hostility.
Trump and Kim signed a joint declaration at a summit in Singapore on June 12 and pledged to work toward peace and to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. “We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,” Trump said at a news conference following the summit. He called his meeting with Kim “honest, direct and productive.”
The improvements to the Yongbyon facility include modifications to
a plutonium production reactor’s cooling system and various support facilities. Uranium enrichment, a key component for civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons, is still taking place, according to 38 North’s interpretation of the images.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House to 38 North’s analysis.
The Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center is located about 60 miles north of the country’s capital and is a core part of its nuclear weapons program.
Still, the monitoring group conceded in its research paper that the ongoing improvements to the Yongbyon facility should not necessarily be seen as having any direct relationship to North Korea’s recent pledge to denuclearize.