North Korea is building a key facility capable of enriching uranium for nuclear weapons, CNN reported on Thursday. The portal showed satellite photos of the facility, which – according to experts – indicate attempts by the Kim Jong Un regime to significantly increase production. The North Korean agency KCNA previously announced a test of a “rail mounted missile system”.
Satellite images of the Jongbjon nuclear research facility in the northwest of the country show that the expansion of the uranium enrichment facility is underway. According to Jeffrey Lewis, an arms expert and lecturer at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, these changes could allow North Korea to increase its enriched uranium production by 25 percent. – The expansion in Jongbjon probably shows plans to increase the production of nuclear materials for the production of weapons – the expert added.
– The new construction covers an area of about 1,000 square meters, enough to accommodate a thousand additional centrifuges. Another thousand centrifuges would increase the plant’s ability to extract enriched uranium by 25 percent, Lewis noted. In his opinion, if North Korea were to additionally upgrade the centrifuges it currently uses, it would significantly increase the plant’s efficiency.
According to CNN, citing two sources familiar with the case, US officials are aware of the regime’s recent actions at the Jongbjon plant. The US National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) declined to comment.
North Korea is testing
Reports of the expansion of the factory in Jongbjon appeared at a time of increased combat activity in North Korea. The North Korean agency KCNA announced a test of a “railroad missile system”. According to the agency, the intention was to hit a target area, located offshore 800 kilometers off the east coast of North Korea. Japanese authorities reported that the rockets were fired five minutes apart and reached the waters of the Japanese maritime economic zone, but did not damage any ships or aircraft.
Wednesday’s test took place just two days after the successful trials of North Korean long-range cruise missiles. The KCNA then reported that the missiles flew 1,500 kilometers before hitting their targets. This Pyongyang missile test coincided with the visit of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to Seoul, where he discussed with South Korean president Mun Dze In the issue of nuclear negotiations with North Korea, which is stuck in a stalemate.
Negotiations with the US at a standstill
Many experts believed that the next missile tests were probably an attempt by Pyongyang to put pressure on the administration of US President Joe Biden and persuade him to start talks with the Kim Jong Un regime, writes AP. Despite many international sanctions, North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, has significantly increased its military capabilities. Pyongyang conducted, inter alia, several nuclear tests and successfully tested ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
At the January congress of the ruling party, Kim Jong Un announced further nuclear weapons and the construction of “the most powerful military force”. Pyongyang accuses Washington and Seoul of hostile intentions, and maintains that nuclear and missile armaments protect it from invasion.
Nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have come to a standstill since the failed summit attended by then-US President Donald Trump and the DPRK leader in February 2019. After taking office as US President, Joe Biden ordered a comprehensive review of US policy towards the North Korean regime to identify all possible options in the face of the growing threat posed by North Korea.
Main photo source: KCNA