A high level of activity was detected at North Korea's main nuclear complex using satellite imagery, according to a think-tank, after leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday (March 28th) called for increased production of "military nuclear material".

Satellite images taken between March 3 and 17 suggest that construction of a light-water reactor at the Yongbyon site is "close to completion," according to the US-based organization 38 North. According to the same images, the construction of a building has begun, while discharges of water from the cooling system have been detected, suggesting that the reactor is preparing "to be operational", details the report of the think tank.

A five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon also continues to operate and new construction has begun around the site's uranium enrichment plant, presumably to increase its capacity.

"These developments appear to reflect Kim Jong Un's recent directive to increase the production of fissile material to bolster his nuclear arsenal," 38 North said.

Recent commercial satellite imagery of #NorthKorea's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center indicates a high level of activity around the complex, including the Experimental Light Water Reactor. Analysis by Peter Makowsky and Jack Liu. https://t.co/l6DTI2XNai

— 38 North (@38NorthNK) April 1, 2023

Towards a seventh nuclear test?

State media on Tuesday showed North Korea's No. 1, who called for increasing the production of "military nuclear material" in order to "exponentially" increase the production of nuclear weapons, inspecting a row of smaller warheads that appear to be tactical nuclear warheads.

Experts say tactical nuclear weapons are a sign that North Korea is making technical progress, and seem to indicate that the country is preparing to conduct a seventh nuclear test.

For their part, Seoul and Washington are warning against a new North Korean nuclear test since early 2022. While the two allies have stepped up joint military exercises, Pyongyang is still firing and testing missiles, while blaming Seoul for the deterioration of regional security.

The official KCNA news agency on Sunday denounced the series of joint exercises conducted by Washington and Seoul, warning of North Korea's "nuclear attack capability".

The North Korean military, which has stepped up its military exercises in recent weeks, said Tuesday it had conducted a second test of what it described as an "underwater nuclear attack drone".

While Pyongyang has called its status as a nuclear power in 2022 "irreversible", the North Korean leader ordered his military this month to intensify its military maneuvers in preparation for a "real war".

With AFP

The summary of the week France 24 invites you to look back on the news that marked the week

I subscribe

Take international news with you everywhere! Download the France 24 app