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North Korea reportedly continuing to develop nuclear program 'at a rapid pace' despite promises

Despite promises from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, a recent report, which relied on satellite images taken on June 21, concluded that North Korea was continuing its nuclear program 'at a rapid pace.' (Kim Won-Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

A report that relied on satellite images taken on June 21 has concluded that North Korea has been improving its Yongbyon nuclear plant “at a rapid pace”


What's the story?

According to 38 North's analysis, the satellite images showed a number of improvements to the infrastructure at multiple North Korean nuclear testing sites, including several new buildings. Coal bins used to fuel thermal plants appear to be depleting.

Some of the images also showed an increase in discoloration on parts of the roofs of some buildings, which the analysts said was likely caused by water vapor from cooling units used for operating gas centrifuges.

The analysis includes satellite images with labels indicating which buildings they believe are new, improved, or currently in use.

38 North's Jenny Town tweeted that this continued work at the nuclear sites “[u]nderscores reason why an actual deal is necessary, not just a statement of lofty goals.”

Who conducted this analysis?

38 North is a website dedicated to analysis of North Korea, co-founded by two North Korea experts from Johns Hopkins University.

Didn't Kim say he was committed to denuclearization?

After his summit with Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that denuclearization talks were “really moving rapidly” and that Kim's regime was doing “so much.” He added:

I just think that we are now we are going to start the process of denuclearization of North Korea, and I believe that he’s going back and will start it virtually immediately, and he’s already indicated that and you look at what he’s done.

So we got our hostages back, but they’ve blown up one of their sites, one of their testing sites, their primary testing site, in fact some people say their only testing site, they are getting rid of a missile, which isn’t in the document, that was done afterwards, they’re getting rid of a missile testing site — they’re doing so much now.

At the end of the summit, Trump and Kim both signed an agreement, which read:

President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

What else?

While this does not mean for sure that North Korea is backtracking on its promise to denuclearize, it does not appear to be promising.

If it does turn out to be a reversal, it would not be the first time for the Hermit Kingdom. North Korea has agreed to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, only to later go back on the deal for a variety of reasons, on at least six separate occasions: in 1985, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, and 2012.

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