The Pentagon says Pyongyang may try to get the attention of the new administration after the failed Trump summit.
The Pentagon has expressed concern over North Korea’s nuclear activities after the United Nations nuclear watchdog indicated that the country may be retreating nuclear fuel.
Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, head of intelligence for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said the North Korean activity highlighted this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could be intended to grab the attention of the Biden administration and push for sanctions relief.
The new administration is currently reviewing policy between the United States and North Korea.
“We are paying attention to this. And it’s deeply concerning where North Korea wants to go, ”Studeman said at a virtual technology and security event.
In a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Monday, Director General Rafael Grossi referred to the activity of North Korea’s Yongbyon and Kangson nuclear facilities.
He said there had been recent indications of the operation of a steam plant that serves as a radiochemical laboratory.
North Korea used its radiochemical laboratory in Yongbyon to reprocess plutonium from a reactor there for nuclear bombs.
Grossi called North Korea’s continued nuclear activity a blatant violation of UN sanctions and “deeply regrettable.”
Get Biden’s Attention
Referring to Grossi’s statement, Studeman said, “The IAEA Board of Governors issued a notice stating that there had been evidence that the Koreans might reprocess nuclear fuel.
“If this is true, it could put us in another level of tension with Korea,” he said.
“This may be the start of something that is designed to influence the Biden administration; this is perhaps the first way to attract the attention of the new administration here, where perhaps [North Korea] would use this development of reprocessing as a bargaining chip for sanctions relief. “
President Joe Biden’s administration, which took office in January, conducts comprehensive review of North Korea’s policy following former President Donald Trump’s unprecedented engagement with leader Kim Jong One, in a demonstration of summons that failed to persuade Pyongyang to give up nuclear power. weapons.
Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said North Korea’s approach may involve more sanctions or unspecified diplomatic incentives.
A confidential UN report last month said North Korea continued to expand its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020.
Jenny Town, deputy director of the Washington-based North Korea surveillance project 38 North, told Reuters that satellite images she received from Yongbyon from February 17 to March 2 showed steam coming from the laboratory at the complex. , which was not known to work. for about two years.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that reprocessing has started, but it could be an indication of preparations for it,” she said.
North Korea uses both uranium and plutonium for its nuclear weapons, but the latter allows smaller and lighter bombs.