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North Korea 'begins dismantling rocket test site'

July 24, 2018

Satellite images suggest Pyongyang was complying with a pledge made to US President Donald Trump in June. The site is believed to have played a key role in North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile program.

A file photo from 2012 released by KCNA of a North Korean rocket lifting off from the Sohae launch pad
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/KCNA

North Korea has begun dismantling key facilities at an important rocket launching site on the northwest coast of the country, a US-based monitor said Monday, based on its analysis of satellite images.

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.

Kim & Trump: A big deal?

The images suggest that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was complying with his pledge made to US President Donald Trump during a historic summit in Singapore last month.

Read moreWhat's in the document that Kim and Trump signed?

"Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North's intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea," Washington-based 38 North said.

Trump told reporters after the June 12 summit that Kim had promised to destroy a key engine test site very soon. But he did not identify the site. Reuters news agency later reported it had found out the site was Sohae.

This satellite image, dated July 22, 2018 and provided by 38 North on July 23, shows key facilities being dismantled at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, North Korea's main missile engine testing site since 2012.
Satellite images indicate that North Korea was destroying key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching StationImage: picture-alliance/Yonhap

The think tank's report comes amid suspicions that North Korea may not keep its promise of  "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

'Important move'

Jenny Town, managing editor of 38 North, said the dismantling job at Sohae satellite launching station 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.

In a tweet early on Monday, Trump rejected a report that he was angry at the slow progress in relations with North Korea.

"Wrong, very happy!" he said. "A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months. Likewise, no nuclear tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy," he added.

ap/se (Reuters, AFP)

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