North Korea Expands Long-Range Missile Base, Analysts Say
SEOUL—North Korea is expanding military facilities thought to house long-range missiles that can hit the U.S., according to a think-tank report that revives doubts about the regime’s sincerity in disarmament negotiations.
Pyongyang is still producing nuclear weapons and appears to be upgrading a missile base near the Chinese border, according to the analysis by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., based on satellite imagery taken in recent months.
“The missile base at Yeongjeo-dong has long been a concern to U.S. and South Korean officials because of its unique location,” the report said, referring to the border site, which it said is likely to receive the North’s latest weapons.
Seven miles away, North Korea has been building new facilities that appear to be either another missile base or an expansion of the Yeongjeo-dong facility, said the Middlebury analysis, first reported by CNN.
The U.S. Embassy in Seoul declined to comment.
U.S. officials have questioned whether North Korea is serious about giving up nuclear weapons as negotiations falter due to disagreements over U.S.-led sanctions and the pace of North Korean disarmament.
North Korea insists it has made significant concessions, including dismantling a missile launch site and a nuclear-weapons test site, and has called for the lifting of sanctions that ban or limit its trade in coal, textiles and raw materials. Washington has refused to ease sanctions until Pyongyang takes more concrete steps toward denuclearization.
Expansion of the Yeongjeo-dong site wouldn’t necessarily violate the agreement that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump reached in Singapore in June.
The deal obliges both sides to pursue new relations and “to work toward complete denuclearization”—vague phrases that were drafted by Pyongyang officials, according to a former senior North Korean official who defected to the South. The lack of specifics in the agreement has given diplomats room to negotiate, but also failed to bridge fundamental disagreements between the sides.
The U.S., though, has kept open the possibility of another summit between the two leaders, which Mr. Trump has said could take place early in the new year.
Meanwhile, warming inter-Korean relations are complicating the nuclear calculus.
South Korea has been urging Washington to accept some North Korean demands for a partial lifting of sanctions. Such a step would allow for renewed economic engagement between North and South, a goal of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
But the South Korean leader has been cautious not to get too far out ahead of his U.S. ally. In a meeting with Mr. Trump last weekend, Mr. Moon expressed continued support for sanctions on Pyongyang, according to his spokesman.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and South Korea have worked to ease tensions with Pyongyang by scaling back joint military exercises this week. North Korea likewise toned down its usual criticism of the maneuvers, only briefly calling the exercises a “dangerous” move in a short article on its state media.
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