March 7, 2019– Mary Greeley News – WASHINGTON — North Korea is pursuing the “rapid rebuilding” of the long-range rocket site at Sohae Launch Facility, according to new commercial imagery and an analysis from the researchers at Beyond Parallel.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 7, 2019
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 7, 2019
SEOUL (AP) — South Korea’s military said Thursday it is carefully monitoring North Korean nuclear and missile facilities after the country’s spy agency told lawmakers that new activity was detected at a research center where the North is believed to build long-range missiles targeting the U.S. mainland.
A North Korean missile launch site that Pyongyang had previously said it was dismantling appears once again to be operational, according to an independent analysis of updated satellite photos.
Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said the U.S. and South Korean militaries are closely coordinating intelligence over the developments at the North’s missile research center in Pyongyang and also at a separate long-range rocket site. She did not elaborate on what the developments were.
“At the launch pad, work on the rail-mounted transfer structure appears to have been completed by March 6 and the structure may now be operational,” they added. The report comes after South Korea’s Defense Ministry said that it registered increased activity at North Korea’s research center for long-range missiles in Pyongyang, as well as unspecified developments at the Sohae ballistic missile site.
A lawmaker who attended a closed-door intelligence briefing told The Associated Press that National Intelligence Service director Suh Hoon said his agency had monitored increased vehicle movement at the Pyongyang facility. Suh said in the briefing Tuesday that vehicles were transporting supplies, but avoided specific answers when lawmakers pressed him on what they were for, the lawmaker said. The lawmaker requested anonymity because the information was sensitive.
President Trump is expressing concern over reports North Korea may be rebuilding its nuclear sites.
While speaking at the White House, the president said the U.S. is closely monitoring the situation and he would very disappointed in Kim Jong-un if the reports are true.
North Korea condemned on Thursday the United States military exercises with South Korea that began earlier this week. The drills, called Dong Maeng and set to last until March 12, were described by Pyongyang’s state-run media outlet Korean Central News Service (KCNA) as “a violent violation of the joint declarations and statements that North Korea reached with the US and South Korea.”
On Monday when the exercises began US President Donald Trump said that he never discussed the military drills with Kim Jong-un, reiterating he is against the “war games” because they “cost the US far too much money.”
Suh also told lawmakers that North Korea is restoring facilities at a rocket launch site in Tongchang-ri that it partially dismantled last year as part of disarmament steps, an assessment supported by private U.S. reports based on satellite imagery. While the NIS believes North Korea has not produced plutonium for nuclear weapons in months, signs of uranium use have been seen at an enrichment facility at North Korea’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, the lawmaker said. The International Atomic Energy Agency provided a similar estimation in a recent report.
The revelations follow the collapse of talks in Vietnam last week between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump over what the Americans said were excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for a limited offer to partially shutter the Yongbyon site.
Some analysts said North Korea is apparently trying to convey displeasure over the summit’s failure by creating an impression that it could resume missile or rocket tests. That would put pressure on Washington and Seoul, which has acted as a mediator, to make a deal, they said.
Kim said in a New Year’s address that he was committed to his high-stakes summitry with Trump, but also warned he may need to pursue a “new way” if the United States continues to insist on unilateral demands and sanctions. After the Vietnam summit collapsed, North Korean diplomat Choe Sun Hui told reporters that Kim “might lose his willingness” to continue nuclear negotiations.
Moon Seong Mook, an analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said it’s unlikely that North Korea will resume major missile tests or satellite launches anytime soon because that would risk destroying its fragile negotiations with Washington and could bring even harsher sanctions on its crippled economy.
He said North Korea will also want to see if South Korea will support its position more strongly. Undeterred by the breakdown of the talks in Vietnam, South Korea has continued to urge the United States to ease sanctions on North Korea to allow a resumption of inter-Korean economic projects and encourage more disarmament steps from the North.
“The rebuilding activities at Sohae demonstrate how quickly North Korea can easily render reversible any steps taken towards scrapping its WMD program with little hesitation. This poses challenges for the U.S. goal of final, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization.” https://t.co/ES1Mnropkl
— Sue Mi Terry (@SueMiTerry) March 7, 2019
Experts say the missile research center in Pyongyang’s Sanumdong area is where North Korea assembles its intercontinental ballistic missiles. The North conducted three flight tests of developmental ICBMs in 2017 that demonstrated their potential ability to reach the continental United States.
@realDonaldTrump it will be hard for them to ignore and when North Korea acts up it will be on their heads
— Mrs kg (@Mskw_atl8fulton) March 7, 2019
In early 2018, Kim expressed his intention to deal away his weapons arsenal in return for security and economic benefits. The North initiated diplomacy with Washington and Seoul and has since unilaterally suspended nuclear and missile tests and dismantled its underground nuclear testing site without the presence of outside experts.
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) March 7, 2019
It also dismantled parts of the Tongchang-ri rocket launch facility. North Korea had carried out satellite launches at the site in recent years, resulting in U.N. sanctions over claims that they were disguised tests of banned missile technology.
After a September summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, Kim agreed to “permanently shut down” the Tongchang-ri engine test ground and rocket launch pad with the participation of foreign experts.
Trump said Kim told him in Vietnam that North Korea will continue to suspend nuclear and missile tests while negotiations are underway, and South Korea and the U.S. announced Sunday that they are eliminating massive springtime military drills and replacing them with smaller exercises to support the talks
credit: In part with https://m-en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20190307009300325