IAEA chief condemns North's continuing nuclear activities

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IAEA chief condemns North's continuing nuclear activities

Satellite images published in a report by the North Korea analysis website 38 North show flooding along the Kuryong River bisecting the Yongbyon nuclear complex in late July and early August. [YONHAP]

Satellite images published in a report by the North Korea analysis website 38 North show flooding along the Kuryong River bisecting the Yongbyon nuclear complex in late July and early August. [YONHAP]

 
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday expressed deep regret with North Korea’s continued nuclear activities, labeling them a clear violation of United Nations resolutions.  
 
In an introductory statement to the IAEA’s board of governors, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the agency had indications Pyongyang was continuing to produce enriched uranium at a reported centrifuge facility at Yongbyon.
 
It was also likely the regime has continued construction at an experimental light-water reactor (LWR) in the area, Grossi continued, but he noted that the 5 MW(e) nuclear reactor and radiochemical laboratory at the complex appeared inoperative.  
 
“The DPRK’s nuclear activities remain a cause for serious concern,” Grossi added, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
 
“I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under 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, especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country.”
 
A director general report on North Korea published on Sept. 3 noted that a series of developments had been observed at the Yongbyon site, the biggest and most prominent of the regime’s nuclear facilities.
 
Observed emissions at Yongbyon’s nuclear fuel rod fabrication plant showed chemical processing for the production of enriched uranium had occurred, the report said. As for the experimental light-water reactor, deliveries of materials and reactor components were observed, as well as what appeared to be a test for cooling water infrastructure in April of this year.  
 
The experimental light-water reactor at Yongbyon, which Pyongyang initially insisted was for electricity production, has been in the works for almost a decade. International security experts have noted the reactor could be used to produce plutonium for the regime’s weapons program, or develop techniques for larger reactors in the future.
 
Though it is currently facing one of the most grave challenges to its regime since the mid-1990s amid the Covid-19 pandemic, North Korea has continued to pour resources and attention into its weapons program.
 
Earlier this month, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) noted the regime could be gearing up for a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test, based on satellite images of ships moored at Sinpo harbor.
 
The vessels resembled those used to tow a test stand barge out to sea, the think tank said, suggesting the regime may test an SLBM to mark the 75th anniversary of its ruling Workers’ Party on Oct. 10.  
 
South Korea’s Minister of National Defense nominee, Gen. Suh Wook, dismissed a potential SLBM launch by Pyongyang in October as unlikely, noting that there were no signs of such preparations.
 
But he acknowledged the regime is continuing to strengthen the capabilities of its submarines able to carry those types of missiles.
 
The North is believed to be building a 3,000-ton submarine that South Korean intelligence believes can carry up to three SLBMs.  
 
If the country’s scientists have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead for the missile, these weapons could give Pyongyang the ability to target the continental United States from waters several thousand kilometers off of California.  
 
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK   [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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