A report by the U.S. State Department claims that North Korea may have nuclear facilities which are as yet unknown to international observers.
The international community is aware of ongoing work at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, but now the State Department has revealed that it believes there may be other, secret facilities within the country, according to Yonhap News.
State Department report warns of North Korea’s secret nuclear facility
The 2015 Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments also states the official belief that North Korea does not seem to have any intention of complying with commitments to shut down its nuclear program.
Pyongyang currently has a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon complex, and other facilities have been used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. To date North Korea has carried out three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
North Korea is currently working on a light water reactor and is also constructing uranium enrichment facilities. The complex could provide a further source of weapons-grade fissile material.
It has long been suspected that Pyongyang maintains secret nuclear facilities at other sites around the country. “The United States believes there is a clear likelihood of additional unidentified nuclear facilities in the DPRK,” reads the State Department report.
Nuclear negotiations unsuccessful
According to the report, North Korea reactivated its reactor in 2013. It it also noted that the construction of the light water reactor could provide Pyongyang with “a justification to possess uranium enrichment technology that could potentially be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.”
Official frustrations over negotiations with the North were evident in the report. “The United States consistently urged North Korea to respond to diplomatic efforts to create the conditions necessary for the resumption of the six-party talks, premised on a demonstrated DPRK commitment to make meaningful progress toward denuclearization,” read the report. “DPRK statements and activities during the reporting period did not signal any intention or commitment to denuclearization.”
Journalists asked the Ministry of National Defense of South Korea for its view on the report, but were told that intelligence agencies “have been closely tracking and watching the relevant development regarding North Korea’s nuclear tests.” No further details were provided.
Pyongyang carried out its last nuclear test in 2013, but has since said that it would undertake “a new form” of test. North Korea continues to work on both its missile and nuclear programs despite opposition from the U.S. and its allies.
Sanctions fail to deter work on nuclear and missile technology
The communist North is under strict economic sanctions due to its continued work on the program, and it shows no sign of giving up on its plan to possess nuclear weapons.
Evidence of long-term, high-level nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Iran has been uncovered following a two year investigation by a prominent Iranian opposition group. Both countries have sent delegations of nuclear experts to visit facilities and exchange knowledge.
At this point, North Korea claims to have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, and some military experts believe that Pyongyang has a missile which could theoretically reach the West Coast of the United States. However there is no consensus on the progress of the North’s missile or nuclear program, given the country’s track record for releasing doctored images to back up claims of significant technological advances in its development of missile technology.
Pyongyang working on nuclear, missile and cyber warfare capabilities
Recently the North released a series of photos purporting to show the successful launch of a missile from a submarine, but Western experts later concluded that the images had been heavily doctored. Some analysts believe that the missile may have been fired from a submerged barge rather than a submarine.
Although it is doubtful that the secretive nation has the ability to strike directly at the United States, it is more likely that North Korea has the necessary technology to launch a devastating nuclear attack on South Korea and Japan.
Nuclear and missile technology are not the only areas in which North Korea is investing heavily. A high-ranking defector recently claimed that as much as 20% of Pyongyang’s military budget is invested in a cyber warfare division known as Bureau 121.
While information about North Korea is infamously difficult to verify, it is certainly worrying that sanctions appear to be having no effect on Pyongyang’s ability to work on technology which would constitute a major threat to both regional and global security. The Kim regime continues to expertly manipulate its relationships with the outside world, and a new approach may be needed to reduce the threat that North Korea presents to security.