South Korean National Intelligence Service spotted “special activities” with transport vehicles at a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile research and production site called Sanumdong located in the Pyongyang area, according to local media cited by Bloomberg.
Regardless of what is going at the site, South Korea can’t tell if it began before or after the failed Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi.
Images from commercial satellites also appeared to confirm the South Korean claims. The North has started “rapidly rebuilding” its long-range rocket-launch site at Sohae, according to the New York Times.
According to the report, construction work at the long-range rocket facility began before the Hanoi summit, it had been partially dismantled in summer 2018 as a good-will gesture by the North. The facility is located in Tongchang-ri, a remote area near the northwestern border with China.
Following are images posted by North Korea-focused blog 38 North:
Figure 1. Rail-mounted transfer building is being rebuilt.
Figure 2. Engine support structure of the engine test stand is being reassembled.
As reported by Zero Hedge, the North claims the site is used to launch satellites as part of its space program.
The Tongchang-ri facilities have been vital to North Korea’s space and missile programs. The country has used the facilities there to launch satellite-carrying rockets. The United States has called the satellite program a front for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Mr. Kim visited the rocket engine test site in 2017 when engineers there successfully tested a new high-thrust engine, which was believed to have powered intercontinental ballistic missiles that the North launched months later.
Meanwhile, Politico cited US President Donald Trump who said that he would be very disappointed if claims that North Korea is rebuilding its long-range rocket site turn out true.
“I would be very disappointed if that were happening,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office, adding that “it’s a very early report.” “I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim. I don’t think I will be, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll take a look. It will ultimately get solved.”
According to Trump, the relationship between North Korea and the US was good, but he would continue looking into reports.
“It’s too early to see. But we have to solve a problem. We have a very nasty problem there,” Trump said.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton warned North Korea that it must be willing to completely give up its nuclear weapons program or it may face even tougher sanctions.
“If they’re not willing to do it, President Trump has been very clear they’re not getting relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them,” Bolton told the Fox Business Network on March 5th. “And we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up, in fact.”
Thus, it appears that little progress was achieved during the latest Trump-Kim summit. All things considered, it may have potentially caused a few steps back.