New satellite images show activity at a North Korea missile testing site that had been inactive since the United States and North Korea entered an agreement to denuclearize the nation, according to two well respected organizations monitoring the region.
The activity to rebuild the structures on the rocket launch pad at the Sohae site at Tongchang-ri, appears to have occurred shortly after the Hanoi, Vietnam summit abruptly ended due to disagreements between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over sanctions.
According to the BBC, the site has been used for satellite launches and engine testing. However, it’s never been used to launch ballistic missiles. Over the past year, North Korea has not conducted missile testing and there was some progress to dismantle the site following a series of productive talks with the Trump administration. However, concern is growing that North Korea may backtrack on its original promise not to test.
Below are the “Key Findings” from the Center for Strategic Studies’ Beyond Parallel project on North Korea
- Commercial satellite imagery acquired on March 2, 2019, shows that North Korea is pursuing a rapid rebuilding of the long-range rocket site at Sohae.
- This renewed activity, taken just two days after the inconclusive Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, may indicate North Korean plans to demonstrate resolve in the face of U.S. rejection of North Korea’s demands at the summit to lift five UN Security Council sanctions enacted in 2016-2017.
- This site has been used in the past for satellite launches, which use ICBM technology banned under UN Security Council resolutions.
- Activity is evident at the vertical engine test stand and the launch pad’s rail-mounted rocket transfer structure.
- Significantly, the environmental shelters on the umbilical tower, which are normally closed, have been opened to show the launch pad.
- This facility had been dormant since August 2018, indicating the current activity is deliberate and purposeful.
Administration Still Hopeful
Despite the setback, administration officials are hopeful that the bilateral talks regarding the disarmament of North Korea’s nuclear facility will continue in the future. The meeting in Hanoi ended without an agreement despite the expectation that it would finally put an end to the Korean War.
However, the two world leaders still appear to have an amicable relationship. According to the BBC, the satellite images were taken two days after the summit.
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