Published: Wed, November 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Secret North Korean missile sites located?

Secret North Korean missile sites located?

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (Nov 13) criticised what he called inaccurate media reports that said North Korea had not declared more than a dozen missile bases.

He added in his tweet, "I will be the first to let you know if things go bad!"

Pyongyang halted missile and nuclear bomb testing earlier this year but United States and South Korean negotiators have yet to elicit from North Korea a concrete declaration of the size or scope of the weapons programs or a promise to stop deploying its existing arsenal.

Kim took exception to a New York Times article on the report that said North Korea was engaging in "great deception", saying that the North has never promised to dismantle a short-range ballistic missile base 135 kilometers (84 miles) northwest of Seoul that was highlighted by CSIS.

Imagery of the Sakkanmol missile base "continues to show minor infrastructure changes to the base that are consistent with what is often seen at remote [Korean People's Army] bases of all types", the report said.

Mr Trump has hailed his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as having opened the way to denuclearisation of the divided peninsula, defusing tensions that less than a year ago brought the two countries to the brink of conflict.

Trump said on Twitter shortly after that summit "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea". It said they are scattered across the country and designed so that mobile missile launchers can quickly be taken out of the underground facilities and moved to launch sites.

Not only has North Korea never pledged to abandon these sites described in the report, it has never pledged to acknowledge they exist, the spokesman reminded.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been scheduled to meet in NY last week Kim's right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, to discuss denuclearization efforts and prepare for a possible second summit, according to the State Department.

"The fact that North Korea has continued to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the midst of high-level diplomacy with China, South Korea and the US should not come as a surprise", said Abraham Denmark, the Asia program director at The Wilson Center. "The last round of tests under Kim Jong-un were not just coming from missile test sites".

The CSIS report drew few if any political conclusions, noting only that the missile sites would likely have to be dismantled as part of any Kim-Trump deal.

US officials have discussed possible clandestine enrichment sites for nuclear fuel, and in July, analysts at CNS used commercial satellite imagery to conclude that North Korea was "completing a major expansion of an important factory for producing solid rocket motors for ... nuclear-armed missiles".

Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that Trump was "getting played by Kim Jong Un".

The Stimson Center's 38 North group published a commentary Tuesday criticizing what it called a "misleading story" featured the day before in The New York Times. On Thursday, Russia called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to take up its request for humanitarian exemptions to global sanctions on Pyongyang.

Medium-range missiles capable of striking Japan and all of South Korea reportedly are deployed in an operational belt 90km to 150km north of the demilitarized zone.

"As of November 2018, the base is active and being reasonably well-maintained by North Korean standards".

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