North Korea Begins Dismantling Missile Site, Images Show

Jul 24, 2018
Originally published on July 24, 2018 6:45 am
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Some new satellite images show that North Korea is dismantling key facilities at a satellite launching station on its western coast. It looks like follow-through from last month's U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore. But NPR's Elise Hu reports North Korea is dismantling something it doesn't really need.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: The place is called the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. Researcher Melissa Hanham has used satellite imagery to watch its campus over the years. It features an assembly facility...

MELISSA HANHAM: A command center, hotels. Reporters have visited this location before. Really, the most noticeable thing is a huge launch pad.

HU: Sohae has served as the country's primary launch site for rockets.

HANHAM: Symbolically, it is a important place. It's, you know, a well-known place.

HU: Now, North Korean authorities have started raising a rocket engine test stand and a related building located not far from that huge launch pad. North Koreans used the test stand to experiment with a series of engines that went into intercontinental ballistic missiles - you know, the ones that in theory could reach the mainland U.S.

HANHAM: What it actually means to dismantle that site - unfortunately, it's not as exciting as we had hoped. You know, there's a lot of parts of North Korea's missile and nuclear program that we would like to pay attention to. And this is really just the lowest hanging fruit.

HU: She says North Korea doesn't need this test stand anymore, making the dismantling more a confidence-building signal than substance. A South Korean national security adviser said today, quote, "it's a better sign than nothing." North Korea watchers say the denuclearization agreement in Singapore was so vague that it left out verification measures - leaving moves like this in the eye of the beholder.

BRUCE KLINGNER: The two sides are still very wide apart on what they feel denuclearization is.

HU: Former CIA analyst Bruce Klingner is now a researcher at the Heritage Foundation.

KLINGNER: Now that North Korea is, by their definition, inside the nuclear club, they will go down to zero nukes when everyone else in the club does.

HU: They appear to be going down one engine test stand, but it's not hard to rebuild one. And on the concrete measure in Singapore to return remains of soldiers from the Korean War, the U.S. and North Korea are still haggling over the details. Elise Hu, NPR News, Seoul.

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