Unused fuel rods stacked in a warehouse at North Korea's nuclear complex in Yongbyon in 2009. Operations are continuing at the North Korean plant. Photo: AFP/Ho/South Korean Foreign Ministry

According to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there is no indication that North Korea has stopped its nuclear activities.

“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are cause for grave concern,” the report, cited by Reuters, Al-Jazeera and others, states.

North Korea, or as it is officially called, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, expelled the IAEA’s inspectors in 2009 and never allowed them to return. But the agency says it has continued with the verification of North Korea’s nuclear activities through satellite imagery and open source information.

Among other findings, the IAEA has observed that a steam plant connected to a radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon nuclear site north of the capital Pyongyang continues to be in operation.

On June 12 this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump met in Singapore and it was announced that Pyongyang had agreed to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But it is becoming clear that the US and North Korea interpret that pledge differently.

The US wants to see a unilateral denuclearization on the part of North Korea, while North Korea sees the agreement in the broader context of the military balance of power on the Korean peninsula.

The US does not keep nuclear warheads in South Korea, but guided-missile carrying nuclear submarines pay regular visits to South Korean ports. And despite statements made in Singapore, there appears to be little confidence in US intelligence circles that North Korea is really planning to give up its nuclear arsenal and capabilities.

On August 22, the Website 38 North reported that commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station indicated that while significant progress in tearing down the facility was made from July to August, no significant dismantlement activity had taken place since August 3. 

US intelligence officials also said in an interview with NBC in late June that they believed North Korea “in recent months” had actually increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons.

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