Date
21 July 2019
A file picture shows Intercontinental ballistic missiles being driven past a stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other high-ranking officials during a military parade in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. Photo: Reuters
A file picture shows Intercontinental ballistic missiles being driven past a stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other high-ranking officials during a military parade in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. Photo: Reuters

N Korea restoring part of missile launch site: reports

North Korea has restored part of a missile launch site it began to dismantle after pledging to do so in a first summit with US President Donald Trump last year, reports say.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and two US think tanks, the work was taking place at the Tongchang-ri launch site, Reuters reports.

Citing lawmakers briefed by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Yonhap said the work involved replacing a roof and a door at the missile launch facility. 

Satellite images seen by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, showed that structures on the launch pad had been rebuilt sometime between Feb. 16 and March 2, Jenny Town, managing editor at the project and an analyst at the Stimson Center think tank, told Reuters.

Among other observers, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, released a report, also citing satellite imagery, that concluded North Korea is “pursuing a rapid rebuilding” at the site.

“Activity is evident at the vertical engine test stand and the launch pad’s rail-mounted rocket transfer structure,” the CSIS report said.

“Significantly, the environmental shelters on the umbilical tower, which are normally closed, have been opened to show the launch pad.”

The news comes days after a second summit on denuclearization between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broke down over differences on how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of U.S. willingness to ease sanctions.

The summit took place in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28.

Trump told a news conference after an unprecedented first summit with Kim on June 12 in Singapore last year that the North Korean leader had promised that a major missile engine testing site would be destroyed very soon.

Trump did not identify the site, but a US official subsequently told Reuters it was the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, which is located at Tongchang-ri.

Kim Jong Un also pledged at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September to close Sohae and allow international experts to observe the dismantling of the missile engine-testing site and a launch pad.

Signs that North Korea had begun acting on its pledge to Trump were detected in July, when a Washington think tank said satellite images indicated work had begun at Sohae to dismantle a building used to assemble space-launch vehicles and a nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles.

However, subsequent images indicated North Korea had halted work to dismantle the missile engine test site in the first part of August.

The breakdown of the summit in Hanoi last week has raised questions about the future of US-North Korea dialogue.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he was hopeful he would send a delegation to North Korea in the coming weeks but that he had had “no commitment yet.”

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RC

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