The Pentagon has expressed concern about a UN report indicating possible reprocessing of nuclear fuel for bombs by North Korea, and said such activity could raise tensions with Pyeongyang.
That's according to the head of intelligence for the U.S. Indo-Pacific command referring to North Korean activity highlighted this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency which could be intended to get the attention of the Biden administration and as a bargaining chip to press for sanctions relief.
The administration is currently reviewing U.S.-North Korea policy.
Reading between North Korean lines. Let's go in-depth with Dr. Go Myong-hyun.
The IAEA Board of Governors released a statement earlier this week making reference to activity at North Korea's Yongbyong and Kangson nuclear facilities.
According to that report there had been recent indications of operation of a steam plant that serves a radiochemical laboratory.
Studeman said the IAEA issued a notice that there had been evidence of North Korea reprocessing perhaps nuclear fuel. And, if that's true, then that could put the U.S. into a different level of tension with North Korea.
Now, there are two layers of questions here.
First, North Korea has used its radiochemical lab at Yongbyon to reprocess plutonium from a reactor there for nuclear bombs. So, what does this IAEA report mean? What are the North Koreans doing exactly?
Two, how does it put the U.S. and North Korea into a different level of tension? What is the Pentagon foreshadowing here?
Is this North Korea warming up to set the tone with the Biden administration to first perhaps get the new administration's attention here where perhaps the North would use this reprocessing development as bargaining chip for sanctions relief? Do you believe it will have that effect?
Meanwhile, former U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that maximum pressure needs to be maintained on North Korea in order for them to realize that it is safer without nuclear weapons than it is with them He also made an interesting point that while applying pressure, the U.S. must make it clear that the goal is not to remove Kim Jong-un from leadership.
Would you agree?
This also comes at a time when just last week, after three years of absence, the U.S. has decided to rejoin the UN's highest body for human rights, the Human Rights Council.
Seeking a seat as an active observer come October, U.S. Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, advocated for investigations into North Korean and Syrian human rights abuses while pointing out countries with the worst human rights records.
How will the U.S. rejoining the UN Human Rights Council to have impact on North Korea?
We learned today that Seoul's top negotiator, Jeong Eun-bo, and his U.S. counterpart, Donna Welton, will meet in Washington this Friday for talks on the defense cost-sharing deal.
Considering the fact that the U.S. is rarely making official visits or taking them, this face to face talks may imply a deal could be struck this time. BUT, other issues relating to North Korean denuclearization could also be discussed. Given the latest discoveries, can we expect any big moves at this meeting?
Last week, a video clip showed a group of Russian diplomats and their families hand pushing a rail trolley their way out of North Korea and into Russia.
What are you reading into this? What does this say about the state of the North Korean economy at the moment?
In the spirit of the vaccination program having kicked off here in South Korea North Korea is among the 92 underdeveloped countries subject to the vaccine provision plan securing equitable vaccine availability carried out by the COVAX Facility.
So the COVAX Facility has announced that it will be supplying North Korea with around 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine between February and May.
This is slightly less than the 2 million doses originally allocated and enough to inoculate around 852-thousand people, since each person will need two doses.
Now, North Korea has taken all the precautionary measures against COVID-19, yet still claims to be coronavirus-free
Do we have any idea as far as how the North will decide who will get vaccinated?
Dr. Go Myong-hyun, our very own Senior North Korea analyst on News In-Depth, many thanks as always for your insights. We appreciate it.