North Korea making ‘rapid’ improvements to nuclear reactor despite Trump-Kim agreement

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un inspects an honor guard ahead of his departure to Singapore in Pyongyang on June 10, 2018.

KCNA | Reuters
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un inspects an honor guard ahead of his departure to Singapore in Pyongyang on June 10, 2018.

North Korea is upgrading its only known nuclear research facility, satellite imagery has shown, despite ongoing negotiations with multiple world leaders and a pledge to abandon its weapons program.

The satellite photos, obtained by North Korea analysis outlet 38 North, indicate that the isolated regime is making numerous improvements to its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center “at a rapid pace.”

The report comes just over two weeks after President Donald Trumpand North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement that called for a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

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.

‘Lofty goals’

“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.

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