Kim Jong-un‘s men are thought to be working on a second reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, some 10 times larger than the site’s other reactor which has been operational since the 1980s.
Work on the second reactor was halted in 1994 after an agreement with the US.
Sources say that, despite US officials monitoring the activity at Yongbyon, North Korea is not trying to hide the construction – meaning that this is likely an outward demonstration of their nuclear plans.
The satellite images were obtained by CNN and an intelligence source, and were captured by Maxar during April and May this year.
Experts from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies analysed the images and concluded that construction on the second reactor was back underway.
Once it’s complete, expert Jeffrey Lewis said that North Korea will be able to increase its plutonium production – used in nuclear weapons – by a factor of 10.
He told CNN that the images were “the first unambiguous indicator that North Korea is moving to complete the reactor”.
He added that the images show North Korea “connecting the secondary cooling loop of the 50 MW(e) reactor to a pumphouse on the river”, which explains other activities at the site and suggests it’s being completed.
It isn’t yet clear how long the reactor will take to complete, but Lewis said that when work stopped in 1994 it was years away.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Meiners refused to confirm to CNN if there was any US intelligence suggesting North Korea was completing the second reactor at Yongbyon.
“However, we’ve been very clear on the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear and missile programs, our commitment to the defence of the ROK, Japan, and the U.S. homeland, and our shared objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he did say.
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