North Korea said to be dismantling key parts of launch site

Sean Reid
July 24, 2018

Satellite images indicate North Korea has begun dismantling key facilities at a site used to develop engines for ballistic missiles, a first step toward fulfilling a pledge made to U.S. President Donald Trump, a Washington-based think tank said on Monday.

Trump said after the summit that North Korea would shut down the site, also known as the Tongchang-ri missile test site.

The dismantling at the site comes after Kim Jong-un promised to halt all missile testing, and is a significant confidence-building measure.

The website said imagery indicated the North had begun taking down a processing building and a rocket-engine test stand that had been used to test liquid-fuel engines at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station.

SOHAE SATELLITE LAUNCH PAD NORTH KOREA- JULY 20 2018 Figure 1. By July 20 dismantlement had begun of the rail-mounted transfer structure on the Sohae launch pad. Mandatory credit for all images DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images

However, as The Associated Press notes, "Other analysts say such steps wouldn't diminish North Korea's military capabilities or represent a genuine step toward denuclearization".

"They can blow the engine test site that they don't need anymore, while at the same time mass producing the missiles that they once tested there, and enriching the uranium at Yongbyon, and the covert facility".

"A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months".

China and Russian Federation have argued that North Korea should be rewarded with the prospect of eased sanctions for opening up dialogue with the USA and halting missile tests. The president didn't identify the exact site, sparking speculations that North Korea may not be transparent about its activities. The launch in February 2016 was particularly contentious because Pyongyang had conducted a nuclear test just a month earlier.


After an problematic meeting in Pyongyang involving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a team of North Korean officials, the North criticized the US for making unilateral demands of North Korea while ignoring Pyongyang's expectations, with a peace treaty being high on the country's list of demands. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy.

Asked what further steps were needed by North Korea following the June 12 summit in Singapore between Kim Jong Un and Trump, Pompeo added: "They need to completely, fully denuclearize".

Besides being politically sensitive, however, handing the North Korean government stacks of cash offers no guarantee that authenticated USA servicemen's remains would be recovered, Jannuzi said.

The rare show of discrepancy between the allies came at an unusually sensitive time between the South and North, after North Korean media excruciated South Korean authorities for what it said was kowtowing to the US on inter-Korean issues.


Jenny Town, managing editor of 38 North, which is based at Washington's Stimson Center, said the work at Sohae could be an important move to keep negotiations going.

"We ignored North Korea too long, and now it's about managing how many nuclear weapons and delivery systems they have, not IF they have them", she said.

The North Korean government has maintained that the site is only for scientific and peaceful uses, but US intelligence believes Sohae plays a critical role in testing technology used in their long-range missile program.


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