Seoul, South Korea-Recent satellite imagery shows that North Korea is expanding its uranium enrichment plant at its major Yongbyon Nuclear Science Center and intends to increase production of bomb material. Experts say there is.
The assessment was made after North Korea recently increased tensions in a missile test for the first time in six months during a long-term dormant nuclear disarmament negotiation with the United States.
“The expansion of the enrichment plant plans to increase North Korea’s production of weapons-grade uranium at the Yongbyon Nuclear Science Center by as much as 25 percent,” said Geoffrey Lewis of Monterey’s Middlebury International Institute and two other experts. It probably shows what you are doing. ” Report.
According to the report, photos taken by satellite imagery company McDonald’s show construction in the area adjacent to the uranium enrichment plant in Nyongbyon.
Satellite images taken on September 1 show that North Korea is cutting down trees and preparing the ground for construction, and said construction excavators were also visible. According to the report, the second image, taken on September 14, shows the walls built to surround the area, foundation work, and enriched buildings to provide access to the newly enclosed area. Shows the panel removed from the side.
The new area is about 10,760 square feet, enough space to accommodate 1,000 additional centrifuges, which will increase the plant’s capacity to produce highly enriched uranium by 25%, the report said. increase.
Nuclear weapons can be manufactured using either highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and North Korea has a facility to produce both in Nyongbyon. Earlier satellite images of Nyongbyon last month showed signs that North Korea was resuming operations at other facilities to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
North Korea calls the Yongbyon Nuclear Science Center the “center” of its nuclear program. At a summit meeting with then-President Donald Trump in early 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to dismantle the entire complex if significant sanctions were given. However, Americans rejected Kim’s proposal because he saw it as a limited denuclearization step.
Some US and South Korean experts speculate that North Korea secretly operates at least one additional uranium enrichment plant. In 2018, South Korea’s top executive told Congress that North Korea is already estimated to have manufactured up to 60 nuclear weapons.
Estimates of the number of nuclear weapons North Korea can add each year vary from 6 to 18.
North Korea saw last week as an effort to launch both ballistic and cruise missiles into the sea, diversify its missile forces, and strengthen its ability to attack South Korea and Japan, where a total of 80,000 U.S. forces are based. It was done. Experts say both types of missiles can be armed with nuclear warheads.
Kim threatens to step up nuclear weapons and obtain more sophisticated weapons unless Washington abandons its hostility to its own country. This is a clear reference to US-led sanctions and regular military training with Seoul. However, Kim still maintains a voluntary moratorium on testing long-range missiles that target the continental United States directly, suggesting that he wants to take advantage of future diplomatic opportunities with Washington.
Kim Jin Hyun