Despite statements by Donald Trump, quoted by Reuters, that the "total denuclearization" of North Korea has "already started," following his June 12 "summit" meeting with the country's dictator Kim Jong-un, new satellite images show that infrastructure improvements at North Korea's only nuclear reactor continue at a "rapid pace."
The images were released on Tuesday by 38 North, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group dedicated to monitoring military and political developments in North Korea. The photos show new construction at North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, where the improvements have been underway since March, 38 North said.
The improvements to the nuclear reactor include a water channel that leads to a new cooling water pump house. Water-based cooling systems are essential to the operation of a nuclear reactor, and the reactor itself is used to create plutonium, a byproduct of the reactor's spent fuel rods. Plutonium is the highly radioactive material used to create nuclear explosive devices, as the World Nuclear Association explains.
The 38 North report says that, from the satellite images, whether or not the North Korean reactor is currently active is impossible to determine. "No visible steam is being vented from the generator building that would confirm that the reactor is operating, but we cannot rule out that this is simply due to the time of year and insufficient image resolution," the site's imagery analysts wrote.
On June 12, Trump met with Kim in Singapore and came away with an agreement that experts say is devoid of specifics and in which North Korea made only a vague promise to do away with its nuclear capability. But Trump has repeatedly boasted that the country has already begun dismantling nuclear weapons facilities. "The big thing is it will be a total denuclearisation, which has already started taking place," Trump said last week, quoted in an Independent report.
But in addition to the newly completed upgrade to the North Korean reactor's cooling system, the new satellite photos show that two new industrial buildings and an office building for nuclear engineers have also now been constructed at the site, as The Daily Beast reported.
Last week Trump — who had been widely criticized for his praise of Kim following the summit, with one Asia Times expert accusing Trump of "spreading North Korean propaganda" — appeared to reverse course on his stance toward North Korea, issuing an executive order continuing a state of national emergency over the rogue country that began in 2008.
In the order, as the Inquisitr reported, Trump called North Korea an "extraordinary threat" due to its nuclear weapons capability — just nine days after declaring that the country was "no longer a nuclear threat."
But North Korea has made promises to denuclearize before, not only under Kim Jong-un, but also under the two previous North Korean leaders, Kim Jong-il, and the country's founder Kim Il-sung — Kim Jong-un's father and grandfather respectively. In fact, by a Wired Magazine count, the "agreement" signed by Kim and Trump on June 12 is North Korea's 13th promise of denuclearization since 1985.
The 38 North analysts caution that the satellite images "should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea's pledge to denuclearize," as Time Magazine reports. But they apparently indicate that more than two weeks after Kim pledged to denuclearize, the North Korean autocrat has not given any orders to stop work on developing nuclear facilities, the report said.