While earlier this month it seemed North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump were able to come to terms on the denuclearization of NK it seems they left out some very important things. For instance, no one made any clear definitions of what that must entail and so we are stuck in limbo at the moment.
While President Trump has made claims that the process would begin soon and that it will be a total denuclearization recent satellite imagery seems to signify otherwise. Not only are operations continuing at the moment, infrastructure works are being carried out. To some, this might not sound like much but to many, it is a very big red flag.
The respected 38 North website said as follows in regards:
Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace. Modifications to the 5 MWe plutonium production reactor’s cooling system appear complete, but a less-than-normal cooling water discharge from the outfall pipe makes a determination of the reactor’s operational status difficult. The status of the Radiochemical Laboratory—used to separate plutonium from spent fuel rods—remains uncertain, although the associated Thermal Plant has likely continued operations, and a small non-industrial building of an unknown purpose has been newly erected near the cooling tower. Construction continues on support facilities throughout other operational areas of Yongbyon, especially at the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR), where the new engineering office building appears externally complete and a small building similar to the one observed at the Radiochemical Laboratory has been erected.
With that being said, it does seem modifications to North Korea’s 5 MW reactor’s secondary cooling loop that began back in March seem to be complete. While we do not know if the reactor is operational and at what level. The satellite images mentioned above show that a new channel from the nearby Kuryong River has been dug out and designed to serve as a cooling mechanism. There have also been noted two new buildings as well, both near the experimental light water reactor.
One of those two buildings is a four-story engineering building and the other we do not quite know anything about just yet. That being said, 38 North does also mention that currently there is no dead set evidence suggesting that operations have begun. It is as we have assumed some parts active and others not. You can see that coal bins at the thermal plant seem to appear a bit more depleted since images were last analyzed implying that there has to be something going on within the plant.
Take a look at some of these satellite images below as well as in the video. As you can see, the differences are quite interesting and could mean more than we realize. That being said, we will only be able to understand these things as time goes by. Currently, there is no real explanation.
According to The Telegraph, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been pushing for more follow-up talks to really get things down and work over the details in regards to denuclearization but no date has been set as of right now. Hopefully, more will be released in the days to come.
38 North continued as follows:
Since late 2017, two new buildings have been constructed in the southwest corner of the Radioisotope Production Facility near the end of the rail yard line serving that facility. At least one of these new buildings could be intended to store rail-delivered chemicals to support operations in the main production building, as over the past month, a below-grade pipeline has also been completed that connects them with the main production building, thereby providing a possible means for transferring such chemicals. (Figure 8) Little is known about this facility other than it was constructed in 2015, with various modifications since then. However, it is presumed to be a radioisotope production facility based on the internal layout and features observed remotely during its construction.
What do you think about all of this? Do you think NK is going to stay true to its word or do you think this is all some kind of plot? Currently, I am not sure what is to come and I hope that in time more of what is going on begins to make sense.
Image via The Australian