North Korea has rebuilt part of a missile site it promised Trump it would dismantle

news
President Trump And Kim Jong Un Shake Hands At Summit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea has restored part of a missile launch site it began to dismantle after pledging to do so in a first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last year, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency and two U.S. think tanks reported on Tuesday.


Yonhap quoted lawmakers briefed by South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) as saying that the work was taking place at the Tongchang-ri launch site and involved replacing a roof and a door at the facility.

Satellite images seen by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, showed that structures on the launch pad had been rebuilt sometime between Feb. 16 and March 2, Jenny Town, managing editor at the project and an analyst at the Stimson Center think tank, told Reuters.

The Sohae Satellite Launching Station launch pad features what researchers of Beyond Parallel, a CSIS project, describe as showing the partially rebuilt rail-mounted rocket transfer structure in a commercial satellite image taken over Tongchang-ri, North Korea on March 2, 2019 and released March 5, (CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019 via Reuters)

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a report, also citing satellite imagery, that concluded North Korea is "pursuing a rapid rebuilding" at the site.

"Activity is evident at the vertical engine test stand and the launch pad's rail-mounted rocket transfer structure," the CSIS report said. "Significantly, the environmental shelters on the umbilical tower, which are normally closed, have been opened to show the launch pad."

The Sohae Satellite Launching Station features what researchers of Beyond Parallel, a CSIS project, describe as the vertical engine stand partially rebuilt with two construction cranes, several vehicles and supplies laying on the ground in a commercial satellite image taken over Tongchang-ri, North (CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019 via Reuters)

The news comes days after a second summit on denuclearization between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down over differences on how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of U.S. willingness to ease sanctions.

The summit took place in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28.

Trump told a news conference after an unprecedented first summit with Kim on June 12 in Singapore that the North Korean leader had promised that a major missile engine testing site would be destroyed very soon.

Trump did not identify the site, but a U.S. official subsequently told Reuters it was the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, which is located at Tongchang-ri.

Asked to comment, the White House referred to the U.S. State Department, which did not immediately respond.

A U.S. government source said the NIS was considered reliable on such issues, but added that the work described did not seem particularly alarming, and certainly not on a scale of resuming missile tests that have been suspended since 2017.

Future dialogue?

Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high-ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

Kim Jong Un also pledged at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September to close Sohae and allow international experts to observe the dismantling of the missile engine-testing site and a launch pad.

Signs that North Korea had begun acting on its pledge to Trump were detected in July, when a Washington think tank said satellite images indicated work had begun at Sohae to dismantle a building used to assemble space-launch vehicles and a nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles.

However, subsequent images indicated North Korea had halted work to dismantle the missile engine test site in the first part of August.

The fact that the site had been dormant since August indicates the new activity is "deliberate and purposeful," the CSIS report said.

The breakdown of the summit in Hanoi last week has raised questions about the future of U.S.-North Korea dialogue.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he was hopeful he would send a delegation to North Korea in the coming weeks but that he had "no commitment yet."

While North Korea's official media said last week Kim and Trump had decided at the summit to continue talks, its Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told reporters Kim "might lose his willingness to pursue a deal" and questioned the need to continue.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told a news briefing that the United States remains "in regular contact" with North Korea, but he declined to say whether they had been in contact since the summit.

Palladino said U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who led pre-summit negotiation efforts, planned to meet his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on Wednesday.

Yonhap also quoted lawmakers briefed by intelligence officials as saying that the five-megawatt reactor at North Korea's main nuclear site at Yongbyon, which produces weapons-grade plutonium used to build bombs, had not been operational since late last year, concurring with a report from the U.N. atomic watchdog.

Yonhap quoted the sources as saying there had been no sign of reprocessing of plutonium from the reactor and that tunnels at North Korea's main nuclear test site in Punggye-ri had remained shut down and unattended since their widely publicized destruction in May, which Pyongyang said was proof of its commitment to ending nuclear testing.

The fate of the Yongbyon nuclear complex and its possible dismantling was a central issue in the Hanoi summit.

SEE ALSO: Satellite Images Reveal North Korea's Vast Network Of Secret Mountain Missile Bases

WATCH NEXT: North Korea Fires it's 'Most Powerful' ICBM Yet

U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch

This article originally appeared on Military.com.

Inside Forward Operating Base Oqab in Kabul, Afghanistan stands a wall painted with a mural of an airman kneeling before a battlefield cross. Beneath it, a black gravestone bookended with flowers and dangling dog tags displays the names of eight U.S. airmen and an American contractor killed in a horrific insider attack at Kabul International Airport in 2011.

It's one of a number of such memorials ranging from plaques, murals and concrete T-walls scattered across Afghanistan. For the last eight years, those tributes have been proof to the families of the fallen that their loved ones have not been forgotten. But with a final U.S. pullout from Afghanistan possibly imminent, those families fear the combat-zone memorials may be lost for good.

Read More Show Less
DOD photo

After a string of high profile incidents, the commander overseeing the Navy SEALs released an all hands memo stating that the elite Naval Special Warfare community has a discipline problem, and pinned the blame on those who place loyalty to their teammates over the Navy and the nation they serve.

Read More Show Less
Ed Mahoney/Kickstarter

In June 2011 Iraq's defense minister announced that U.S. troops who had deployed to the country would receive the Iraq Commitment Medal in recognition of their service. Eight years later, millions of qualified veterans have yet to receive it.

The reason: The Iraqi government has so far failed to provide the medals to the Department of Defense for approval and distribution.

A small group of veterans hopes to change that.

Read More Show Less
F-16 Fighting Falcon (Photo: US Air Force)

For a cool $8.5 million, you could be the proud owner of a "fully functioning" F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon fighter jet that a South Florida company acquired from Jordan.

The combat aircraft, which can hit a top speed of 1,357 mph at 40,000 feet, isn't showroom new — it was built in 1980. But it still has a max range of 2,400 miles and an initial climb rate of 62,000 feet per minute and remains militarized, according to The Drive, an automotive website that also covers defense topics, WBDO News 96.5 reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less