North Korea dismantling key missile-testing site, images show
North Korea has taken “an important first step” toward fulfilling a promise made during its summit with the United States by starting to dismantle a key missile-testing site, a monitoring website said Monday.
The report came as President Donald Trump said he was “very happy” with progress in relations with the North. He pointed out the communist state hasn’t conducted a missile test in months.
A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months. Likewise, no Nuclear Tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy. But the Fake News is saying, without ever asking me (always anonymous sources), that I am angry because it is not going fast enough. Wrong, very happy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018Commercial satellite images show key facilities, including the rocket engine test stand, being razed at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, according to 38 North.
The complex north of the capital, Pyongyang, has been used to develop technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program and therefore the dismantling represents “a significant confidence building measure,” according to the analysis by defense expert Joseph Bermudez Jr.
The report comes amid concern about the North’s true intentions as the June 12 summit in Singapore yielded no specific commitments or timelines.
Trump said at the time that Kim had agreed to destroy a missile engine testing site in addition to his general commitment to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
38 North said satellite images from Friday showed the roof and supporting structure partially removed from the rail-mounted processing structure for the launch pad and numerous vehicles were present, including a large crane.
Two days later, images showed one corner of the structure had been completely dismantled and parts were scattered on the ground, the website said.
It noted, however, that the main processing building and gantry tower remained intact.
The vertical engine test stand superstructure also has been completely dismantled, leaving on the base, “which is also in the process of being removed,” 38 North said, citing images from Sunday.
“Given the state of activity, work is likely to have begun sometime within the past two weeks,” it said.
North Korea has insisted Sohae was only for developing satellites, but U.S. officials suspect it has also been used to perfect ICBM technology as the communist state sought to develop a nuclear weapon that could target the U.S. mainland.
The Trump administration has maintained optimism about the diplomatic process aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program, insisting there’s “no rush” to reach a final deal.
Analysts, however, have expressed skepticism that the North is willing to give up its hard-won nuclear weapons.
The diplomatic offensive has tamped down tensions after fears of nuclear war rose last year as the communist state demonstrated strong advances with a series of missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.
The North suspended long-range missile tests and blew up its main nuclear testing site as goodwill gestures. The U.S., meanwhile, canceled military exercises with the South that had been scheduled to begin next month.