Millennium Post

Up to no good?

Up to no good?
  • With both the Singapore and Hanoi Summits yielding little of meaningful substance, North Korea is back to its usual ways. Satellite images suggest that the country could be preparing to launch a missile or space rocket in the near future, signalling a potential blow to US-North Korea relations. The images reveal an uptick in activity at a facility in Sanumdong, a suburb of the capital Pyongyang. North Korea has previously assembled some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellite-launching rockets at Sanumdong. The release of the images follows an assessment by respected North Korea monitoring website 38 North that the Sohae satellite launch facility, which had been partially disassembled as part of disarmament steps, is now back to normal operational status after a flurry of restoration work in recent weeks,work that appears to have picked up after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump's failed summit in Hanoi. "We're seeing a lot of vehicle activity at the Sanumdong facility and also at the rail transfer point where it would be loaded and taken to Sohae," said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, who has studied the new images. "I think the evidence points to satellite launch and not just the evidence at Sanumdong, but also the evidence from Sohae." Satellite launches use similar technology as ballistic missiles, and experts have long maintained that North Korea's attempts to shoot satellites into space could help them develop viable long-range ballistic missiles. Lewis cautioned that it is impossible to know whether the North Koreans are preparing a military missile or a space rocket. It's unclear if the recent developments will affect how the White House moves forward with North Korea. North Korea's missile programme made strides in 2017, with Pyongyang saying it successfully test-fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Experts say the Hwasong-15, which was launched in late November, can likely hit much of the United States. Trump has touted as progress the fact that North Korea has not conducted any missile or nuclear tests in more than a year. Speaking before the release of the latest images, Trump said it was "too early to see" whether Kim had restarted the country's missile testing programme but added that he would be "very disappointed" if that turned out to be the case. Trump had previously said the two sides departed amicably from the summit and left the door open for future negotiations. It remains to be seen when, if at all, the negotiations would begin. Pyongyang wants all sanctions lifted. The United States wants immediate denuclearisation. Some dilemma!

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