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(LEAD) N. Korea urged to respect denuclearization deals amid reports of activities at Yongbyon

North Korea 11:29 March 08, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS activities detected at Punggye-ri nuclear testing site in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification ministry on Tuesday called on North Korea to abide by agreements it has made with the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula amid reports the reclusive regime is continuing activities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex.

On Monday, Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the agency's monitoring team has spotted indications of activity at the 5-megawatt reactor at the complex north of Pyongyang, calling the move "deeply regrettable."

"The government, in close coordination with related countries and agencies, such as the United States and the IAEA, is continuing the monitoring of North Korea's nuclear and missile activities," a ministry official told reporters on background.

The official declined to comment further on "intelligence matters" but added there hasn't been any major activities worthy of attention.

"(We) urge North Korea to respect the spirits of agreements it has signed with the international community and South Korea (to push for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula)," the official said.

According to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the North appears to be building an annex to a centrifuge enrichment facility at Yongbyon, though its purpose has yet to be determined.

North Korea also appears to be constructing a new building at its purportedly demolished Punggye-ri nuclear test site, Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute, said, citing information based on satellite imagery.

"This is the first activity we have seen at the site since North Korea dismantled it in May 2018," he said. "One possibility is that North Korea plans to bring the test site back to a state of readiness to resume nuclear explosive testing."

This satellite image, released by 38 North on Nov. 24, 2021, shows North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex, north of Pyongyang. North Korea appears to be continuing the operation of a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at the complex, the U.S. monitoring website said the same day, citing the release of steam and water seen in recent satellite imagery. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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