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Satellite imagery suggests uranium enrichment ongoing at N.K. nuclear complex: U.S. monitor

All News 10:46 July 29, 2020

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- Commercial satellite imagery suggests that North Korea is continuing activities possibly related to uranium enrichment at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, a U.S. monitor has said.

Regular appearances of railcars and what were believed to be liquid nitrogen (LN) tanker trailers at the uranium enrichment plant indicate that some sort of ongoing enrichment operations, according to 38 North.

"The continued reappearance of three to four specialized rail flatcars throughout the complex, and especially at the spur servicing these facilities, is evidence of some level of activity beyond caretaking," it said.

Images from July 8 showed that three railcars had newly arrived in the Pungang-ri area west of the Yongbyon reactor compound. The flatcars are usually used to hold cylindrical containers, which suggest operations to move chemical agents.

A possible LN tanker trailer also appeared at the plant between July 11 and 14, 38 North added.

The monitor also pointed to the constant remodeling of buildings and new construction in the main research and administrative areas inside the complex.

But it said there has been no evidence to suggest a five-megawatt nuclear reactor at the complex has been operating. The reactor was the source of weapons-grade plutonium for the North. Pyongyang can harvest one nuclear bomb worth of plutonium by reprocessing spent fuel rods from the reactor.

Nuclear negotiations with the United States broke down in Hanoi early last year. The two sides were far apart over how far Pyongyang should denuclearize in order for Washington to give concessions in return.

Since then, North Korea has stepped up efforts for its "self-reliance" campaign, including enhancing military capacity, amid a deteriorating economy further blighted by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared that the nuclear deterrence is what will permanently guarantee national security and protect the country's future from outside threats.

elly@yna.co.kr
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