November 19, 2019 13:29
Tell-tale activities have been spotted in North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility strongly suggesting the transport of radioactive materials, according to a U.S. report.
The website Beyond Parallel wrote last week that recent satellite imagery of the Yongbyon facility "shows the presence of four specialized railcars that have been associated with the movement of radioactive material in the past."
The authors used satellite photos from earlier this month to verify the movements of the railcars and added that the last time such movements were detected was in April this year.
They said one railcar was spotted at a radioactive test site on Nov. 1, while three others were seen south of a uranium-processing site, but all four could be seen standing at a railway station near the facility on Nov. 9.
But the authors admitted that it is premature to conclude that the movements are directly related to nuclear activities. The railcars could be moving contaminated materials out of the facility, but even that is not clear, they added, and the possibility of the vehicles moving fissile materials into Yongbyon is even smaller.
"Given the current diplomatic climate between North Korea and the United States it is unclear if the presence of these railcars represents another carefully calibrated move by North Korea to maneuver the U.S. into a favorable negotiating position, the actual movement of radioactive materials, or a combination of both," they wrote.
Moon Sung-mook at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy said, "North Korea knows that the U.S. is watching it with satellites, so the movements in Yongbyon could be intentional. But we must also consider that North Korea continues to bolster its capabilities because it has merely halted nuclear tests and long-range missile tests" rather than abandoning them completely.
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