Imagery Analysis of Rail and Road Traffic Between Dandong and Sinuiju and the Effects of Covid-19

, by , and 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.

Thermal Imagery Indicates Activity at Yongbyon Nuclear Reprocessing Facilities

Nuclear Weapons
, by , , and 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.

Sinpo South Shipyard Update: Continued Activity

Ballistic Missiles
, by and 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.

Sinpo South Shipyard Update: Submersible Missile Test Stand Barge and General Status

Ballistic Missiles, Military
, by and 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.

Reprocessing Activity at Yongbyon’s Radiochemistry Laboratory?

Nuclear Weapons
, by and 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.

Recent Activity at the Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant (Nam-chon Chemical Complex) and January Industrial Mine

Nuclear Weapons
, by , and 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.

Sinpo South Shipyard Update: Minor Activity

Ballistic Missiles
, by and 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.

Powering the Korean Peninsula: Economic and Strategic Considerations

Economics, Environment, Infrastructure & Energy
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.
, by , , , and Although significant political barriers remain to reconnecting the Korean peninsula, there is merit in substantive study of the types of energy infrastructure connections that would best promote regional growth and stability. The cases examined in this report underscore North Korea’s dire need for energy infrastructure investment and the importance of it meeting the G20 quality infrastructure investment principles.