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North Korea conducted tests at Yongbyon nuclear facility, report says

North Korea conducted multiple nuclear tests after expelling international inspectors from Yongbyon in 2009. File Photo by Siegfried C. Hecker/UPI
North Korea conducted multiple nuclear tests after expelling international inspectors from Yongbyon in 2009. File Photo by Siegfried C. Hecker/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 6 (UPI) -- North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility was up and running several times between late 2020 and February, according to a Japanese press report Friday.

A draft report from a panel of experts for the United Nations sanctions committee on North Korea said there is evidence Yongbyon is active, citing infrared imagery of the nuclear site, the Nikkei reported.

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The U.N. draft report stated that "the external construction of a light water reactor seems to be complete" and that "installation of machinery is likely to be in progress."

But experts also said the 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon was not showing signs of activity. The reactor ceased to operate in 2018.

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The report described the activity as "tests," but did not specify what kind of tests had been carried out. North Korea conducted six nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, twice in 2016 and once in 2017.

The report will come under U.N. review before being released in September. It could be used as evidence to impose sanctions on individuals and entities, according to the Nikkei.

North Korea's ability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons has raised concerns at international agencies.

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Olli Heinonen, a former International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director general, recently said on 38 North that North Korea likely produced about 1,190 pounds of highly enriched uranium at Yongbyon by the end of 2020.

North Korea also invested heavily in the facility after expelling IAEA inspectors in 2009. North Korea built two halls in the decade that followed, with one hall capable of containing 2,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment, according to Heinonen.

The U.N. panel of experts also said that ship-to-ship oil smuggling continues to occur in the high seas, and that luxury items, including cars worth $1 million, have been smuggled into the North, with Chinese companies acting as intermediaries.

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Last year Kim Jong Un visited a flash-flood zone in a Lexus LX 570.

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