WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- A U.S. research group said it found early evidence of a secret North Korean facility used for uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons, a discovery that may be critical in any future nuclear negotiations with North Korea.
The Washington, D.C.,-based Institute for Science and International Security said the suspected site is believed to be located in an underground factory that makes airplane components, about 29 miles west of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. It was discovered using satellite imagery.
In 2010, North Korean leaders revealed the existence of a gas centrifuge plant in Yongbyon, but have repeatedly denied there were other centrifuge plants. World leaders believed the centrifuge plant in Yongbyon was part of a larger gas centrifuge complex, but were unable to confirm their suspicions.
David Albright, the institute's president, said in a report there is no evidence the site, believed to be located at the Panghyon Aircraft Plant, continues to operate as a centrifuge plant, but that it may have held up to 300 centrifuges in its prime.
Tensions in the region remain high after the North fired three ballistic missiles toward South Korea as training for future attacks on "U.S. imperialist nuclear equipment," North Korea's media reported on July 19.