SEOUL, South Korea - Earlier this year, a South Korea military analysis had revealed that North Korea has enough material to make 10 nuclear warheads.
Seoul's 2016 Defense White Paper revealed that its conclusion was based on Pyongyang's estimated 50-kg stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium, and the reckoning that each warhead would require an average of 4 to 6 kg of nuclear material.
By December of last year, Pyongyang’s plutonium stash was revealed to have jumped from 40 to 50 kg in two years.
This report was revealed nine days before Trump was to be inaugurated as the President of the United States.
Since assuming Presidency, Trump has vented out his anger and frustration on North Korea’s increased nuclear activity on its close and only ally, China and has called North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, a tough cookie, whom he would be honored to meet.
At times, he has even rebuked North Korea, claiming the country was being “bad… very bad.”
Now, the rogue state, that has carried out at least two secret campaigns to reprocess radioactive material at the Yongbyon nuclear plant in Nyongbyon County - is revealed to have ramped up its plutonium production.
According to a U.S.-based think tank, thermal images of North Korea’s nuclear research center indicate increased production of nuclear material for Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project has stated that scans of the Radiochemical Laboratory at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center reveal marked increases in thermal activity, hinting at plutonium production.
Researchers have also reportedly detected increased thermal activity, possibly the result of centrifuge operations, at another facility dedicated to uranium enrichment.
It was in September last year, after its last nuclear test, that North Korea ramped up its uranium enrichment, leading experts to conclude that the North could produce six nuclear bombs per year.
Then, in March, the International Atomic Energy Association warned that North Korea has more than doubled the size of its uranium enrichment facility in recent years, pushing nuclear material production into a “new phase.”
Possible activity at the Experimental Light Water Reactor is being viewed as a “cause for concern.”
Experts believe that if the reclusive nation is processing plutonium and uranium, it is very likely the country’s regime intends to expand its nuclear arsenal.
North Korea recently tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts assess could strike the U.S., specifically Alaska, parts of the Pacific Northwest, and possibly even the West Coast.
While the facility is not currently operational, experts believe that North Korea has the ability to produce tritium, which is an important isotope essential in the production of boosted yield nuclear weapons and hydrogen bombs.
A nuclear scientist, Siegfried Hecker, who was in South Korea last month, told reporters, “I believe they have made tritium,” although he expressed doubts about the North’s ability to develop a hydrogen bomb now.
He said, “They can make tritium so they have the basic element for a hydrogen bomb. But it takes much more than that to weaponize hydrogen bombs. I don’t believe they can do that.”
Last year in January, North Korea claimed the successful test of a hydrogen bomb, even though experts are skeptical about the claim.
Since 2006, North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, with two successful tests last year.
With each test, the explosive yield has increased, enhancing North Korea’s ability to rain down devastation on its enemies.
Meanwhile, on the political side of things, South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae In, who had offered to hold talks with North Korea initially, is now reportedly preparing to propose military talks to North Korea.
According to a government official, South Korea might propose inter-Korean military talks as early as this week to follow up on the President offer to stop all acts of hostility on the border.
The official said that discussions on the plan, between the unification, military and other relevant ministries was initiated a day after Pyongyang reacted to Moon's suggestion.
During his speech in Berlin on July 6, Moon laid out his vision for bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula.
This plan included a proposal to mutually halt acts of hostility along their tense border as of the July 27, which is the anniversary of the armistice treaty that ended the three-year Korean War in 1953.
He has also offered to hold reunions of families torn apart by the war on October 4, which is Korea's lunar fall harvest holiday and the 10th anniversary of the second inter-Korean summit.
On Saturday, the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling party ran a commentary by a private writer who said it seemed "fortunate" as Moon included his government's commitment to the landmark joint declarations signed at the inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007.
The two declarations aim to foster cross-border cooperation, exchanges and reconciliation.
The commentary emphasized that the first step to improve relations should be the resolution of the fundamental issue of military confrontation.
Seoul is also reportedly planning to propose Red Cross talks to North Korea to hold reunions of separated families.
Previous such reunions were held in October 2015 at a resort at Mount Kumgang on North Korea's east coast.
However, in the commentary, the communist state has demanded that South Korea repatriate 12 female North Koreans who worked at a Pyongyang-run restaurant in China and defected to Seoul en masse last year.
Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea specialist at Dongguk University in Seoul has said, “With the words, the South Korean government may mean suspending propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts or anti-North Korean leaflet drops, but the North could demand halt of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States.”