North Korea appears to have restarted the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, the UN atomic energy agency said on Monday (30), warning of a “deeply worrying” fact that could indicate an expansion of the banned arms program of the communist regime .
“Since early July there have been signs, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the reactor’s operation,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its annual report.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proposed in 2019 to dismantle part of the Yongbyon complex, the country’s main nuclear facility, at his second summit with then US President Donald Trump, in exchange for a reduction in sanctions international agencies, but the offer was rejected.
Since December 2018, the reactor appeared to be inactive, says the IAEA report, dated Friday, August 27th.
UN agency inspectors were expelled from North Korea in 2009 and have since had to monitor North Korean nuclear activity from abroad.
The reactor’s possible operation is yet another recent sign that Pyongyang is using a radiochemical laboratory nearby to separate the plutonium from spent fuel previously taken from the reactor.
Both facts are “deeply troubling” and the activities would represent a “clear violation” of UN resolutions, the IAEA said.
A senior US State Department official said Washington was aware of the report and is coordinating its actions with other allied countries.
“This report highlights the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy so that we can achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” this State Department source told AFP.
“We continue to seek dialogue with North Korea to address this reported activity and the full range of issues related to denuclearization,” he added.
Located 100 kilometers north of the capital Pyongyang, Yongbyon is home to the country’s first nuclear reactor and is the only known source of plutonium for its weapons program.
However, analysts suspect it is not North Korea’s only uranium enrichment facility.
Subject to several international sanctions, North Korea suspended nuclear and missile tests in 2018 during diplomatic rapprochement with the United States, which is stalled.
In January 2020, the communist regime announced the end of the self-imposed moratorium and has since carried out a series of short-range missile launches. The country has not carried out a nuclear test since 2017.
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