Report reveals undeclared North Korean missile base headquarters

January 22, 2019 08:31
File photo of North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles seen during a military parade in Pyongyang in February last year. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

One of 20 undeclared ballistic missile operating bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). 

“The Sino-ri missile operating base and the Nodong missiles deployed at this location fit into North Korea’s presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability,” said the report published on Monday. 

The discovery of an undeclared missile headquarters comes three days after US President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he “looks forward” to another summit to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February.

CSIS, which last reported on the 20 undeclared bases in November, said the Sino-ri base has never been declared by North Korea and as a result “does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations”. 

The report noted that missile operating bases would presumably be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any denuclearization deal.

“The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don’t disclose,” said Victor Cha, one of the authors of the report.

“It looks like they’re playing a game. They’re still going to have all this operational capability” even if they destroy their disclosed nuclear facilities, he added.

Located 212 kilometers (132 miles) north of the demilitarized zone, the Sino-ri complex is an 18-square-kilometer (7 square mile) base that plays a key role in developing ballistic missiles capable of reaching South Korea, Japan, and even the US territory of Guam in the Western Pacific, the report said.

It houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1 medium-range ballistic missiles, the report added.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Satellite images of the base from Dec. 27, 2018 show an entrance to an underground bunker, reinforced shelters and a headquarters, the report said.

Meanwhile, Russia has recognized the existence of a cruise missile system that has prompted Washington to say it will quit the 1987 INF disarmament treaty, but has denied that it violates the pact, US officials and NATO diplomats said. 

Two weeks before the planned US withdrawal from the treaty, which keeps nuclear-capable missiles out of Europe, Washington’s disarmament ambassador in Geneva said there was still time for Russia to destroy the system.

But after a session of the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, Russian diplomat Alexander Deyneko told Reuters: “We shall not yield to any ultimatums like to liquidate or to eliminate [a] missile that doesn’t fall within the range of the treaty prohibitions.”

Russia had denied developing what U.S. intelligence calls the SSC-8/9M729 cruise missile system.

However, NATO diplomats said Moscow did now recognize its existence, but argued that its range was within the 500-km limit set by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty.

US Ambassador Robert Wood said the system was a “potent and direct threat to Europe and Asia” as it had a range of 500 to 1,500 km (310-930 miles), contravening a treaty that is designed to prevent attacks at short notice.

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