New satellite images reveal that North Korea has significantly expanded a key long-range missile base located in the mountains in the country, CNN reported on December 5th.
The unidentified, active long-range missile base is located near the previously identified Yeongjeo-dong base.
The continuous construction has been reportedly happening to upgrade and expand both facilities, despite the on-going negotiations between North Korea, South Korea and the US.
According to the report, the base Yeongjeo-dong base has long been known by the US intelligence agencies and analysts. However, CNN cited researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey who said that the images reveal the construction of a new facility just 7 miles away from the older site, that had not been publicly identified before.
“Satellite images show that the base remains active. Moreover, in the past year North Korea has significantly expanded a nearby facility that appears to be another missile base,” the Middlebury Institute report states.
The images reportedly show that North Korea was building an extremely large underground facility in 2017 and that this facility was still under construction as of August 2018.
“Construction on the previously unidentified site has continued even after the Singapore Summit” between Kim and President Donald Trump in June, Jeffrey Lewis from the Middlebury Institute said. “Whatever Kim says about his desire for denuclearization, North Korea continues to produce and deploy nuclear armed missiles,” he added.
If confirmed, the findings appear to undercut Kim’s pledge to reduce his country’s nuclear capabilities, most recently announced at a September summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in. At that meeting the North Korean leader agreed to permanently dismantle a nuclear facility at another site in Nyongbyon, but only in return of concessions by the US.
The US State Department, as well as the South Korean Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the satellite images. However, on December 4th, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said that Trump is willing to hold a second summit with Kim, due to North Korea’s failure to fulfill their part of the deal following the first summit in June.
Earlier, on November 12th the Time cited US analysts said they had located 13 of an estimated 20 secret North Korean missile development sites.
Although the sites are not launch facilities and in some cases are rudimentary, the authors of the report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies say they are hidden and illustrate the scope of the North’s weapons program and the country’s determination to conceal its military might.
“The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” they said.
The report came shortly after North Korea cancelled a round of negotiations with Mike Pompeo that were to take place on November 8th.
The cancellation, which the U.S. ascribed to scheduling issues, followed threats from North Korean officials to resume nuclear and missile testing unless US sanctions are lifted. However, the US has repeatedly said that there would be no concessions before a denuclearization agreement is fully implemented, creating a sort of Catch-22 situation.