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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

North Korea's 'dismantling of ballistic missile test site facilities' draws wary response from experts

North Korea's 'dismantling of ballistic missile test site facilities' draws wary response from expertsSatellite images indicate North Korea has begun dismantling key facilities at a site used to develop engines for ballistic missiles, in a first step toward fulfilling a pledge made to US President Donald Trump at a June summit, a Washington-based think tank said on Monday. The July 20 images showed work at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station 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, the 38 North think tank said. "Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile programme, these efforts represent a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea," it said in a report. Mr Trump told a news conference after his unprecedented June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that Mr Kim had promised that a major missile engine testing site would be destroyed very soon. Mr Trump did not identify the site, but a US official subsequently told Reuters that it was Sohae. Satellite image shows the apparent dismantling of facilities at the Sohae satellite launching station in North Korea Credit: AFP The 38 North report comes amid growing questions about North Korea's willingness to live up to the commitments Kim made at the summit, particularly to work towards denuclearization. US officials have repeatedly said North Korea has committed to giving up a nuclear weapons programme that now threatens the United States, but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about this. North Korea appears to have started dismantling key facilities at a rocket-engine test center, a group of experts said Credit: AFP Jenny Town, managing editor of 38 North, which is based at Washington's Stimson Centre, said the work at Sohae could be an important move to keep negotiations going. "This could (and that’s a big could) mean that North Korea is also willing to forgo satellite launches for the time being as well as nuclear and missile tests. This distinction has derailed diplomacy in the past," she said. Experts expressed caution over the significance of the move. "Dismantling the engine test stand is a good move, but about the bare minimum that can be done at the site," said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.   "Unless they dismantle the whole site, it will remain it will remain North Korea’s premier location for space launches." She added: "North Korea does not need the Sohae engine test stand anymore if it is confident in the engine design. As Kim Jong-un said himself, North Korea is moving from testing to mass production." Instead, we should be looking for DPRK locations where MORE missiles and the means to launch them (TELs) are being assembled. 6/— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) July 23, 2018 On Friday, senior US officials called on Kim to act on his promise to give up his nuclear weapons and said the world, including China and Russia, must continued to enforce sanctions on Pyongyang until he does so. On Monday, the US State Department issued an advisory together with the departments of Treasury and Homeland Security alerting businesses to North Korea's sanctions-evasion tactics. The move potentially marks a significant step after last month's summit between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump Credit: AFP It said they should "implement effective due diligence policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure compliance with applicable legal requirements across their entire supply chains." In a tweet early on Monday, Mr Trump rejected "Fake News" that he was angry because progress was not happening fast enough with North Korea. "Wrong, very happy!" he said in the Tweet. A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months. Likewise, no Nuclear Tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy. But the Fake News is saying, without ever asking me (always anonymous sources), that I am angry because it is not going fast enough. Wrong, very happy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018 A report in The Washington Post at the weekend said that in spite of positive assessments Mr Trump has given on progress with North Korea, he has vented anger at aides over a lack of immediate progress. Last week, Mr Trump said there was "no rush" and "no time limit" on denuclearization negotiations. US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Thursday it was technically possible for North Korea to eliminate its nuclear weapons program within a year, but added that it was not likely to happen. 




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