Satellite images suggest North Korea has started taking important steps toward fulfilling a major commitment North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made to President Donald Trump in Singapore.
The North has started dismantling key facilities at its primary satellite launch vehicle and engine testing site — the Sohae Satellite Launch Station, North Korea watchdog 38 North revealed Monday. The North is apparently dismantling the rail-mounted processing building where satellite launch vehicles are assembled and the nearby rocket engine test stand where the country tests liquid-fueled engines for rockets and ballistic missiles.
“These facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program,” the 38 North analysts explained, adding, “These efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea.”
While it was not included in the agreement signed in Singapore, the president has repeatedly insisted that Kim offered to destroy a major missile development site.
“Chairman Kim has told me that North Korea is already destroying a major missile engine testing site, that is not in your signed document, we agreed to that after the agreement was signed,” Trump said at a post-summit press conference. “That’s a big thing, the missiles that they were testing, the site is going to be destroyed very soon.”
It was later revealed the site in question is the Sohae Satellite Launch Station.
While critics have downplayed the achievements of the Singapore summit, which was decidedly short on substance, it is hard to deny that the forfeiture of the Sohae facility is a meaningful concession. (RELATED: Kim Jong Un’s Offer To Destroy A Missile Development Site May Actually Be A Really Big Deal)
“That is an active site and would be a concession,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted in June.
“It would be a concession,” Ankit Panda, the senior editor at The Diplomat and a foreign policy expert, tweeted that same month, noting the Sohae Satellite Launch Station is where the North appears to have tested the engine configuration seen on the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile and the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, both of which were tested for the first time in 2017.
The closure of the Sohae facility would noticeably limit North Korea’s research and development capabilities for space launch and ballistic missile technology.
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