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North Korea hasn’t stopped heart of nuclear activities, UN nuclear watchdog says

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft joined United States Air Force, Japan and Republic of Korea Air Force aircraft in a sequenced bilateral show of force over the Korean peninsula. (Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr./U.S. Marine Corps)
August 22, 2018

In a recent report by a United Nations nuclear watchdog group, concerns were expressed over the state of North Korea’s nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has not been granted direct access to North Korean nuclear sites for verifications of their denuclearization progress, but has observed activities using satellite imagery, which it calls a “grave concern,” CNN reported Tuesday.

The IAEA has been monitoring North Korea’s progress using satellite imagery. The report mentioned active nuclear activities at the Yongbyon nuclear power plant, as well as activities in a building housing the centrifuge enrichment facility.

“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear programme and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” the report said.

Specifically, IAEA referenced observations of activities at the nuclear fuel-rod fabrication facility, with cooling units and vehicles in operation. At the nuclear power plant, steam and water discharges were observed coming from the plant, indicating operation. At the steam plant, activities indicated nuclear fuel processing through the radiochemical laboratory.

Mining and milling activities were also observed at a site known as a uranium mine and a nearby plant.

The IAEA report said these activities “are clear violations of relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2375 (2017) and are deeply regrettable.”

“As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear programme is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” the report noted.

The report called on North Korea to comply with the resolutions, and cooperate with the agency to give them access for verification.

“The Director General continues to call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency in the full and effective implementation of its NPT Safeguards Agreement and to resolve all outstanding issues, including those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the DPRK,” the report concluded.

In June, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano applauded the summit and denuclearization agreement between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, adding: “The IAEA stands ready to undertake any verification activities in the DPRK that it may be requested to conduct by the countries concerned, subject to authorization by the IAEA’s Board of Governors,” Sputnik News reported.

In July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said North Korea was still making nuclear materials, but provided no other details. He said the U.S. and North Korea still have a long way to go in building trust and achieving denuclearization.