According to a Washington-based think tank, recent satellite imagery out of North Korea reveals a high level of activity at the country’s main nuclear site, NBC News reported.
On Saturday, the North Korea monitoring project from the think tank 38 North reported that satellite images taken on March 3 and March 17 showed that the Experimental Light Water Reactor located at the Yongbyon nuclear site is nearly complete and is transitioning to operational status.
According to the report, the images show that Yongbyon’s 5 mega-watt reactor is continuing to operate while construction has begun on a support building around the Experimental Light Water Reactor. Water discharges have also been detected from the cooling system of the reactor.
The report concludes that the developments seen in the satellite images appear to reflect North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent order to increase the production of fissile material to expand the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
Last Tuesday, North Korea unveiled smaller nuclear warheads as Pyongyang vowed to produce more weapons-grade nuclear material.
North Korean state media reported last week that Kim ordered an increase in the production of weapons-grade materials as a “far-sighted way” to “exponentially” boost North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
Since early 2022, both the United States and South Korea have warned that North Korea planned to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017 at any time.
While it is not clear if North Korea has fully developed the smaller nuclear warheads necessary to fit on the smaller weapons it has displayed, most analysts believe that perfecting miniaturized warheads will likely be a central objective if Pyongyang resumes nuclear testing.
Last year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that North Korea likely assembled as many as 20 nuclear warheads and could have sufficient fissile material for between 45 and 55 devices.