May 6, 2021 Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha and Jennifer Jun—
Satellite imagery supports open-source reporting that the North Korea-China border has likely been closed to trade since January 2020 due to the North Korean government’s precautions against the transmission of the Covid-19 virus. However, a recent increase in the volume of rail cars in the Dandong and Sinuiju Customs areas, as well as the removal of protective coverings at the Sinuiju rail terminal and freight yard (between March 31 and April 1), suggest preparations to resume exports to China that would provide North Korea with some hard currency.
April 20, 2021 Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha—
Satellite imagery on April 19 shows that North Korea has positioned a cylindrical object on the submersible missile test barge at Nampo.
This object could be a launch tube for an SLBM, but this cannot be confirmed yet based on available imagery... Satellite imagery on April 19 shows that North Korea has positioned a cylindrical object on…
April 15, 2021 Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha, Andy Dinville and Dana Kim—
Recently acquired LANDSAT 7 and 8 thermal infrared imagery of the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center provide strong indications that during March and April 2021, activity involving the heating of buildings and operations of facility support systems had resumed at several locations.
These indications reveal clear patterns, distinct from the surrounding terrain and daily solar heating patterns, that suggest that the Radiochemistry Laboratory, its associated thermal plant, and the centrifuge plant resumed operations during the early part of March 2021 and have continued into mid-April 2021.
April 14, 2021 Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha—
The recent repositioning of the submersible missile test stand barge and floating dry-dock were not isolated events, but components of a series of small naval movements at the shipyard during the past four weeks.
These activities have both practical and conspicuously political motivations as North Korea prepares to launch its new ballistic missile submarine (SSB) and Kim Jong-un apparently undertakes a policy of gradually increasing provocative military actions.
April 8, 2021 Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha—
The recent repositioning of the submersible missile test stand barge was not an isolated event, but the latest in a series of small naval movements at the shipyard during the past several weeks. Satellite imagery of the Sinpo South Shipyard and its environs acquired on April 6 and 7, 2021 shows not only the recent movement of the submersible missile test stand barge, but also provides a general status update of the facility.
April 6, 2021 Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha and Jennifer Jun—
A Maxar Technologies satellite image collected at 11:09 AM KST on April 6 shows that North Korea is moving its submersible missile test barge located at the Sinpo South Shipyard. As no missile canister is visible onboard the submersible missile test barge, this movement does not indicate an imminent SLBM test.
March 30, 2021 Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha—
At the Yongyon Radiochemistry Laboratory, steam (or smoke) rising from any of the stacks within the radiochemistry laboratory itself is not often observed in commercial satellite imagery. However, the March 30 image shows a plume of steam or smoke emanating from a small support building in the center of the facility. This, while not an indicator of a reprocessing campaign itself, indicates that the building is occupied and being heated.
March 26, 2021 Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha and Dana Kim—
Commercial satellite imagery collected during the past eight months indicates that despite the absence of any nuclear testing by North Korea since 2017, the Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant remains operational, is producing uranium concentrate (U3O8, “yellowcake”), and continues to be updated. Yellowcake can be enriched to become highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.
March 25, 2021 Victor Cha—
“It’s business as usual” as North Korea appears to be resuming its cycle of provocations, using weapons demonstrations to build leverage and as a pressure tactic to force unilateral concessions from the United States for a return to the negotiating table.
March 19, 2021 Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha—
Minor activity is observed near the static test stand and the nearby Sinpo Shipyard’s graving dock in satellite imagery acquired on acquired on March 11, 2021. There are no indications of preparations of a forthcoming “pop-up” test of a submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM); however, the North could launch the new SSB or conduct additional SLBM tests at any time of its choosing.