The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that there were reports of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon being operational. According to the satellite images taken, the reactor has been discharging cool water since July. The report also mentions that there have been signs of activity at the reactor since 2018. North Korea has been banned from developing its nuclear weapons programme and has been facing sanctions.
This is a source of concern for countries around the world. It also violates the international nuclear norms in place. David Albright, the President of the Institute for Science and International Security said that there was no doubt that North Korea was aiming at improving the numbers and quality of their nuclear weapons. Dr Jeffrey Lewis, the nuclear policy expert described the reactor as one working through an underground cistern and pump houses system. He said that the satellite images suggested that the reactor was now operating more or less continuously. The White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the United States was willing to meet North Korea anywhere and anytime to give diplomacy a chance. However, the suggestion by the United Nations agency about the reactor operating was found to be deeply disturbing.
While there were some breakthrough in the form of hotlines between the two parts of the Korean Peninsula, they did not have long lasting effect. Despite the signs of being inclined towards peaceful resolution of differences and denuclearisation, North Korea has gone back to its firm stand. It has yet again violated the norms by re-starting the nuclear weapons reactor to produce weapons grade plutonium. This also indicates the unwillingness of North Korea to cooperate in the ongoing attempts for negotiating a prospective truce or deal.
Reuters reported that after a meeting with the then American President Donald Trump in 2019, Pyongyang had offered to dismantle the facility at Yongbyon in exchange for relief from sanctions. That was rejected for not being enough. The interesting aspect pointed by the expert Jeffrey Lewis is that North Korea has not attempted to hide the functionality of the reactor. This shows its open non-abidance of international law and general disregard for the same.
The North Korean violation of law is not new but the pictures shared indicate a serious problem. Iran and Syria have resolved to fight against the economic terrorism. Pakistan and China have been vocal about the western behaviour in international issues. North Korea taking this strong step poses another threat along similar lines. As the experts and policy makers speculate what happens next, North Korea has yet again managed to pull all of them upto the edge.