Satellite images released Monday indicate that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is following through on his pledge to dismantle key missile-launch sites.
Analysts at 38 North, a prominent North Korea research group, claim the new commercial satellite images demonstrate that the regime is dismantling a satellite-launch facility that has long been believed to serve as cover for intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) operations.
“In an important first step towards fulfilling a commitment made by Kim Jong Un at the June 12 Singapore Summit, new commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (North Korea’s main satellite launch facility since 2012) indicates that the North has begun dismantling key facilities,” wrote Joseph S. Bermudez, a senior imagery analyst for 38 North.
“Most notably, these include the rail-mounted processing building — where space launch vehicles are assembled before moving them to the launch pad — and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. 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,” Bermudez added.
The dismantling, which reportedly began on July 20, is a welcome sign for the Trump administration as critics have grown skeptical that the North plans to follow through on its commitment to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, as indicated in a joint statement released after the historic June summit between Trump and Kim.
Pyongyang has reportedly insisted in recent talks that the administration make a “bold move” by beginning to lift the harsh sanctions that have crippled the country economically in recent years. Administration officials have continued to insist that they will not lift the sanctions until Kim’s regime makes demonstrable progress toward denuclearization.