Satellite Images Reportedly Show North Korea Upgrading Nuclear Research Facility

The report comes weeks after the historic Kim-Trump summit, in which North Korea's leader pledged to work toward denuclearization

Infrastructure Improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility
Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribut

North Korea is upgrading the infrastructure at a major nuclear research facility at a “rapid pace,” satellite images published by a monitoring group Wednesday revealed, despite denuclearization pledges made at a historic summit with the U.S. earlier this month.

Imagery captured on June 21 shows that improvements to the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea’s main nuclear reactor, continue to advance. The imagery was analyzed and published by 38 North, a website dedicated to informed analysis of the notoriously opaque country led by Chairman Kim Jong-un.

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Infrastructure Improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility
Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribut

The new developments appear to include modifications to the plutonium production reactor’s cooling system and the construction of at least two new non-industrial buildings onsite. Other construction continues on support facilities throughout the complex, and a new engineering office building now appears to be complete.

News of the upgrades to a critical North Korean nuclear facility comes just two weeks after the North Korean leader met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, where Kim agreed to “work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” in a joint statement published after the summit.

The June 12 summit marked the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Infrastructure Improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility
Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribut

“Continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize,” the 38 North analysis written by Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu said. “The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.”

38 North Managing Editor Jenny Town also wrote on Twitter Wednesday that the continued work at Yongbyon “underscores reason why an actual deal is necessary, not just a statement of lofty goals.”

The two-page joint statement signed by Trump and Kim at the Singapore summit listed four bullet points summarizing agreements made between the two leaders, including the establishment of new U.S.-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) relations, the DPRK’s denuclearization commitment and joint efforts for the recovery of POW/MIA remains.

Trump also made a significant concession by agreeing to cease longstanding U.S. military exercises with South Korea.

While the Trump administration has been criticized for the lack of a detailed plan to enforce North Korea’s denuclearization pledges, senior U.S. officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have maintained that the summit was just the beginning of ongoing negotiations between the two countries.

Trump celebrated the summit as a major victory for his presidency, telling Fox News that he “signed an agreement where we get everything, everything.”

In a series of tweets on the day after the summit, the U.S. president also said that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”