Politics

UN Watchdog: North Korea’s Nuclear Program Is Still Running

Monday, The UN Nuclear watchdog agency issued a report detailing their “grave concerns” over North Korea’s nuclear program. The report indicates North Korea may be continuing their nuclear program, despite commitments to a complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

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North Korea's Nuclear Program
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The UN Report

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued their report on North Korea's nuclear program on Monday ahead of their board meeting in September. Despite the positive strides that appear to have been taken place in North Korea, including the family reunions across the DMZ this week, the IAEA sees cause for concern.

The report explains, “The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern.”

Monday’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), explains the UN does not have direct access to North Korea’s nuclear sites, making it difficult to determine whether the Hermit Kingdom is really halting their nuclear program. The watchdog agency has, however, been monitoring the situation through satellite imagery.

The UN has been specifically monitoring the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, one of the main sites for North Korea's nuclear program. Yongbyon is believed to manufacture plutonium for North Korea's nuclear program.

“As the agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,”

The report found a number of factor that could indicate nuclear testing is still occuring at the site, including:

“Indications consistent with the use of centrifuge enrichment technology at the nuclear fuel-rod fabrication plant including operation of cooling units and movement of vehicles.

“Indications ‘consistent’ with operation of the 5-megawatt experimental nuclear power plant including discharges of steam and cooling water.

“Operations of a steam plant were observed that served a radiochemical laboratory associated

with nuclear fuel processing.

“There are also indications of ongoing mining, milling and other fuel activities at a site previously declared as a uranium mine and an associated plant.”

IAEA has also been monitoring an ongoing construction site near Pyongyang. According to the report the site is “not inconsistent with a centrifuge enrichment facility."

Words from President Trump

During a historic summit with President Trump in June, Kim Jong-un agreed to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but disarmament specialists don’t believe North Korea has taken the steps to unilaterally relinquish its nuclear weapons.

In an interview Monday with Reuters, President Trump said he believes North Korea has taken steps towards denuclearization. He also said another summit would “most likely” occur. The US president did not offer details on a timeframe for the future meeting.

Despite hesitations from the UN, the President has claimed success for halting North Korea's nuclear program. President Trump said, "I stopped (North Korea's) nuclear testing. I stopped (North Korea's) missile testing. Japan is thrilled. What's going to happen? Who knows? We're going to see.”

Family Reunions

During a meeting between Kim Jon-un and President Moon Jae-in in April, the two respective leaders of the Korean peninsula agreed to staging reunions for families separated by the Korean War.

Beginning Monday, 93 people from South Korea and 88 from the North were given the opportunity to temporarily reunite with family across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This was the first reunion event held in three years.

The selected families had the opportunity to reunite for three days. Many of the families have had no contact with each other since the Korean War (1950-53) which saw the Korean peninsula divided. Since the end of the Korean War, families were divided and unable to communicate or visit each other without permission. Many families never learned of the fate of their loved ones across the border.

A plurality of the participants are over the age of 80. According to the Unification Ministry, this week’s program was designed to minimize walking in order to better serve those participants confined to wheelchairs.

Almost 20,000 thousand people have had the chance to temporarily reunite with loved ones since 2000. When the reunion program was first launched in 1988 more than 132,000 people in South Korea registered with the Red Cross seeking a reunion. The Red Cross estimates that more than half died of those who registered died before they were able to be reunited with their families. Of the 57,009 still alive, the vast majority are over 80 years old.

Unlike previous reunion events, the families will be allowed private lunch sessions.

The event is organized by the Red Cross and includes strict rules to avoid political ramifications.

"Political comments such as criticism of the North's leadership and the state of its economy could put your [North Korean] family members into a difficult situation," the Red Cross manual for the reunifications explains.

"If a North Korean family member sings a propaganda song or makes a political comment, restrain them appropriately by naturally changing the subject of the conversation."

The event has been closely scrutinized by North Korean officials.