Activity detected at North Korea nuclear site: US monitor

A February summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended abruptly without agreement on Pyongyang’s nuclear program. (File/AP)
Updated 17 April 2019
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Activity detected at North Korea nuclear site: US monitor

  • Kim earlier signed a vaguely-worded deal on the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”
  • Yongbyon is home to the country’s first nuclear reactor, and is the only known source of plutonium for the North’s weapons program

SEOUL: Activity has been detected at North Korea’s main nuclear site, suggesting Pyongyang may be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel since the collapse of a summit with Washington, a US monitor said Wednesday.
The possible signs of fresh reprocessing activity last week come after a February summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended abruptly without agreement on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Since then North Korea has said it was mulling options for its diplomacy with the US and Kim said last week he was open to talks with Trump only if Washington came with the “proper attitude.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said satellite imagery of the Yongbyon nuclear site on April 12 showed five railcars near its uranium enrichment facility and radiochemistry laboratory.
“In the past these specialized railcars appear to have been associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns,” the Washington-based monitor said.
“The current activity, along with their configurations, does not rule out their possible involvement in such activity, either before or after a reprocessing campaign.”
Trump and Kim held their first landmark summit in Singapore last June, where the North Korean leader signed a vaguely-worded deal on the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
But their failure to reach agreement at their second summit in Hanoi on walking back Pyongyang’s nuclear program in exchange for relaxation of sanctions has raised questions over the future of the wider process.
The US president walked away from a partial deal proposed by Kim, which included an offer to dismantle the Yongbyon complex.
About 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, Yongbyon is home to the country’s first nuclear reactor, and is the only known source of plutonium for the North’s weapons program.
Yongbyon is not believed to be the North’s only uranium enrichment facility and closing it down would not in and of itself signal an end to the country’s atomic program.
North Korea suspended nuclear and missile testing during the diplomatic process in 2018 but the International Atomic Energy Agency has said there were indications that Yongbyon has been in use as recently as the end of February.


Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

Updated 19 September 2019

Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

  • Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations
  • The situation forced schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push its Southeast Asian neighbors to strengthen cooperation in finding a long-term solution for smog wafted across the region from forest fires in Indonesia, its environment minister said on Thursday.
In the past few weeks, Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations, forcing schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles.
“I will have a conference call with the ASEAN secretary-general to raise our views and also express our hope for a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level for a long-term solution,” Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin told a news conference, but did not elaborate on other participants.
All three countries belong to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which set up a regional haze action plan in 1997, but Malaysia thinks the grouping has not done enough to evolve a long-term solution.
Among its efforts to tackle the hazard, Malaysia could pass a new law to punish any of its companies responsible for starting fires, but only international cooperation could yield a lasting solution, Yeo added.
“Cloud seeding is only temporary. A law here would only deal with Malaysian companies. What we need is international cooperation for a long-term solution.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said Malaysia was considering a new law to compel its companies to tackle fires on land they control abroad.
Yeo said Malaysia will keep up cloud seeding efforts to bring temporary relief in badly-hit areas. This involves spraying chemicals, such as sodium chloride and magnesium oxide, from aircraft in order to spur rainfall.
Malaysia will also consider deploying drones to help in cloud seeding, Mahathir told a separate news conference.
Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department issued the text of a special plea for divine intervention to disperse the smog, to be recited after weekly prayers on Friday by mosque congregations nationwide.