Satellite photos show North Korea ‘dismantling rocket launch site’

Wednesday, 25 Jul, 2018

An official from South Korea's presidential office on Tuesday said Seoul has also been detecting dismantlement activities at North Korea's Sohae launch site but did not elaborate.

Trump said last month after the summit that the North has already started "destroying a major missile engine testing site". "Now, that's not disarming and dismantling nuclear capability - and that is what we are waiting for". But, they did not invite global experts.

Sohae, on the northwest coast of North Korea, is ostensibly a facility designed for putting satellites into orbit, but rocket engines are easily repurposed for use in missiles and the worldwide community has labelled Pyongyang's space programme a fig leaf for weapons tests.

According to USA -based North Korea monitoring website 38 North on Monday, new commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, the regime's main satellite launch facility, shows the North has started dismantling key facilities. Many observers say the space launch site is just part of Pyongyang's infrastructure for developing ICBM's, which saw a breakthrough a year ago.

Fox News senior strategic analyst Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.) on the push for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program.

However, the dismantlement of the facilities at Sohae appears to have taken place without outside experts there to verify it.

Stable fuel and rice prices suggest no immediate signs of major suffering in North Korea despite South Korea's recent estimates the impoverished state's economy contracted at its sharpest rate in two decades previous year.

Sohae is North Korea's main satellite launching facility, where the nation put satellites into orbit atop powerful rockets in 2012 and 2016.

North Korea and the US have yet to produce a timeline for the denuclearization process, a list of North Korea's nuclear facilities and how their shutdown will be verified.

On Monday, Trump tweeted that he was happy with progress made with North Korea.

"The rail-mounted environmental shelter-which had not been moved since December 2017-has been razed and removed, the older fuel/oxidizer bunkers are in the process of being razed, and portions of the test stand's upper steel framework have been dismantled and its panelling removed", it said.

Duyeon Kim, a North Korean expert at the Centre for a New American Security, said: "Trump has been hit with a strong dose of reality of North Korea's negotiating style, which is always hard for Americans to understand". The leaders concluded their summit by declaring their vague aspirational goal of moving toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but there's lingering doubts on whether Kim would ever agree to fully give up the nuclear weapons that he may see as a stronger guarantee of his survival than whatever security assurances the United States can provide.

The launching site played helped the rogue regime develop their intercontinental ballistic missile program. Kim announced the mission of his nuclear testing site as finished weeks before inviting foreign journalists to observe the destruction of the tunnels.

A North Korean flag flutters on top of a 160-metre tower in North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in this picture taken from the Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), inside the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 24, 2018.