The oldest of North Korea’s approximately 20 undisclosed missile operating bases – Sino-ri houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1/-2 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) has been disclosed by a study of Beyond Parallel published on January 21st discovered.
The key claims of the study are as follows:
- 212 kilometers north of the demilitarized zone is Sino-ri, an operation missile base that houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1 medium-range ballistic missiles.
- It is presumably the oldest of approximately 20 undisclosed missile operating bases. It is reported to serve as the headquarters of the Strategic Rocket Forces Nodong Missile brigade. “It may have also played a role in the development of the newest Pukkuksong-2 (KN-15) ballistic missile first tested or unveiled on February 12, 2017, shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president.”
- The missile operating base and the deployed Nodong missiles within, according to the report fit into “North Korea’s presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability against targets located both throughout the Korean Peninsula and in most of Japan. The base continues to be defended against preemptive attack by nearby anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air positions.”
- The Sino-ri missile operating base is a historically prominent facility in North Korea, serving as one of the first deployments of Scud missiles and later the Nodong MRBM.
- According to the report the base often also fulfilled broader missions as both an operational test and development, and training facility for Korean People’s Army (KPA)’s Strategic Force. The Sobaek-su Academy and Myodu-san training area both support the missile operation base.
- The base has never been declared by North Korea. It also has reportedly not been the subject of denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea.
- All North Korean missile operating bases would be subject to declaration, verification and dismantlement in “any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal,” according to the report.
- North Korea’s very public decommissioning of the Sohae satellite launch facility, according to the report was aimed at obscuring the threat presented to the US Forces and South Korea by Sino-ri and other similar facilities.
The talks between the US and North Korea in 2019 appear to be progressing well. On January 18th, North Korean official Kim Yong-chol visited Washington. After meeting Kim Yong-chol in Washington, Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration’s Special Representative for North Korea, travelled to Stockholm, where he is to meet Choe Son-hui, an experienced North Korea diplomat who has negotiated with Americans for years.
Choe and Biegun are meant to discuss the details: everything from the “corresponding measures” that North Korea has said it is seeking from the United States, to the next possible steps on denuclearization
However, there appears to be little progress in terms of actual steps towards denuclearization, according to the SCMP report. It would be more likely if, following the Biegun-Choe meeting, if another Trump-Kim summit is to follow it could focus on other objectives asserted in the Singapore declaration: improving diplomatic ties between them and working towards a sustainable peace regime in coordination with South Korea.