High level of activity at N Korean nuclear complex: US think tank

Satellite imagery has indicated a high level of activity at North Korea's main nuclear complex after leader Kim Jong Un ordered the production of weapons-grade nuclear material be ramped up, a US think tank said.

Washington-based 38 North said Saturday that images from March 3 and 17 suggested that an experimental light water reactor (ELWR) at the country's Yongbyon site was "nearing completion".

Construction had started on a new support building, while water discharges were detected from the reactor's cooling system, suggesting that the ELWR "is nearing a transition to operational status", the report said.

The images also indicated that a five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon continued to operate and new construction had started around the site's uranium enrichment plant, likely to expand its capabilities.

"These developments seem to reflect Kim Jong Un's recent directive to increase the fissile material production to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal," the report added.

On Tuesday, North Korean state media unveiled photos of Kim inspecting new, smaller nuclear warheads as he ordered an expansion in "the production of weapon-grade nuclear materials" for an "exponential" increase in the North's arsenal.

Experts said the potential tactical nuclear weapons did indeed show key signs of technical progress, and could indicate an imminent nuclear test.

Officials in Seoul and Washington have warned since early 2022 that North Korea may conduct its seventh nuclear test.

Seoul and Washington have ramped up joint military drills as North Korea conducts ever more provocative weapons tests while blaming the South for the deteriorating security situation.

A commentary carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency ...

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