N. Korea may have restarted reactor at Yongbyon: 38 North
The two Koreas may be back on a path of improving relations, but denuclearization of the Korean peninsula may still be a way off.
North Korea appears to have restarted a reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear facility, with new satellite imagery showing white smoke billowing from a building near the reactor.
The five-megawatt reactor was shut down in 2007, under a disarmament agreement signed at the six-party talks.
It is capable of producing six kilograms of plutonium a year.
The findings by the U.S.-Korea Institute at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies were released Wednesday.
The institute said "the white coloration and volume are consistent with steam being vented because the electrical generating system is about to come online, indicating that the reactor is in or nearing operation."
In April, Pyongyang expressed its intent to restart the Yongbyon reactor, and the U.S. institute believes that steady progress has taken place toward that goal since then.
It is still unclear, however, whether the reactor is fully operational or in a trial run.
The U.S. and other nations are reportedly analyzing the satellite images.
Experts have said that the North may be using the reactor as a way to bring Washington back to the negotiating table.
However, a spokesman from the U.S. State Department's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau had said Wednesday that North Korea's nuclear programs remain a matter of serious concern, and reiterated Washington's stance that Pyongyang needs to abide by its commitments and abandon its nuclear activity.
North Korea has repeatedly defied international calls to denuclearize,… and has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.