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Satellite Images Show Evidence North Korea is Dismantling Missile Test Facility

2018-07-25 01:17
A day after President Donald Trump said he wasn't concerned with the lack of visible progress that North Korea is dismantling its nuclear weapons, a report suggests that North Korea is doing just that. Washington, D.C.-based website 38 North, which offers analysis and news on North Korea, published satellite images that it says shows the dismantling of an important satellite launch facility based on images from July 20 and July 22. The Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which sits near North Korea's west coast, has been the country's main space launch facility for over five years, according to 38 North. It has lain dormant since last December, but still intact, and a new building was being built at the site since as recently as this March.   On July 20, the images seem to show a crane and several vehicles at the Sohae launch pad, and a rail-mounted processing structure with its top removed. At the Sohae vertical engine test stand, the test stand structure appeared partially demolished and a rail-mounted environmental shelter had been razed and removed. Some older fuel/oxidizer bunkers appeared to be in the process of being razed. Two days later, the vehicles and cranes were still at the launch pad, but the rail-mounted processing structure was further taken apart. The test stand had been completely demolished, although the older fuel/oxidizer bunkers seemed to have stayed the same. "Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea," writes 38 North analyst Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., the CEO and founder of KPA Associates LLC, which specializes in forensic architecture. If accurate, the development is significant, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that North Korea is trying to evade oil sanctions put in place to bring them to the table to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. In the first five months of the year, he said North Korea made 89 illegal ship-to-ship oil transfers to get around international sanctions on oil imports. Pompeo called on the world leaders to keep up the pressure on North Korea, saying that if sanctions are loosened, "the prospects for the successful denuclearization are diminished." Trump said he remained "upbeat" about the prospects of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and added that "progress is happening." Addressing a July 22 article in the Washington Post, Trump refuted the characterization that he is "frustrated" by the lack of progress, and has "fumed" privately to his aides about it. "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!" he wrote in a Tweet. Trump seemed to acknowledge the report by 38 North today during a speech in  Kansas City, Missouri. “We’re all pursuing the denuclearization of North Korea and a new future of prosperity, security and peace on the Korean Peninsula and all of Asia,” Trump said at a VFW convention. “New images just today show that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site and we appreciate that. We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim, and it seems to be going very well.”