WASHINGTON – The United Nations nuclear watchdog agency says it has “grave concern” that North Korea continues to develop its nuclear weapons program.
A report Monday from the International Atomic Energy Agency noted that without direct access to North Korean weapons sites its information is limited, though it is monitoring the program through “more frequent collection of satellite imagery.”
The report includes a detailed list of nuclear-related activities the agency believes have been underway in recent months mainly at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, one of the country’s major nuclear sites. The IAEA report provides some of the most specific information made public so far about North Korea’s activities. They include:
Indications consistent with the use of centrifuge enrichment technology at the nuclear fuel-rod fabrication plant including operation of cooling units and movement of vehicles. Indications “consistent” with operation of the 5-megawatt experimental nuclear power plant including discharges of steam and cooling water.
Operations of a steam plant were observed that served a radiochemical laboratory associated with nuclear fuel processing. There are also indications of ongoing mining, milling and other fuel activities at a site previously declared as a uranium mine and an associated plant.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July that the regime is still making fissile material, but he gave no other details. Pompeo has subsequently said the US still has a long way to go in discussions with North Korea to achieve the full denuclearization the Trump administration says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised.
On Monday US President Donald Trump said another summit with Kim would “most likely” happen but offered no details on timing or venue in an interview with Reuters.
In the interview, Trump pointed to an absence of missile or nuclear tests from Pyongyang as a measure of the success he’s had in dealing with the reclusive regime, which last year was threatening the US mainland with nuclear strikes.
“I stopped (North Korea’s) nuclear testing. I stopped (North Korea’s) missile testing. Japan is thrilled. What’s going to happen? Who knows? We’re going to see,” the President said.