The U.S. intelligence community has information indicating North Korea may be building new missiles at a site previously used to build intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, capable of reaching the United States. If true, the construction of the new missiles would be in direct contradiction to pledges made by the rogue nation last month to denuclearize.
The story was first reported by The Washington Post.
Satellite photos taken in recent weeks show work being done on one, and maybe two, liquid-fueled ICBMs at a research facility outside North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.
Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information. “We see them going to work, just as before,” one U.S. official said.
“It’s active. We see shipping containers and vehicles coming and going. This is a facility where they build ICBMs and space-launch vehicles,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a group that analyzes satellite imagery.
The reports on activity at the ICBM sites come after recent discoveries of continued activity at a uranium-enrichment facility called Kangson. Uranium is a requirement for nuclear weaponry. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted that North Korea continues “to produce fissile material” at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last week.
Officials also pointed out that activity was detected at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on North Korea’s west coast, but workers there have been observed dismantling an engine test stand. The North Korean government had promised to dismantle that site during last month’s historic summit between President Trump and reclusive North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
“My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct, and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time…We’re prepared to start a new history and we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,” the president said at the time.
President Trump and Kim signed a joint statement at the end of their meeting that affirmed both countries’ commitment to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula as well as establishing diplomatic relations between the two nations.
The statement signed by the leaders in the wake of the meeting was light on detail regarding timetables and verification.
Conflicting messages arose from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s most recent visit to North Korea earlier this month. At the conclusion of the meetings, Pompeo told reporters that conversations he had with a high-ranking North Korean official were “productive” and conducted in “in good faith.”
“I think we made progress in every element of our discussions,” Pompeo said.
Later that day however, the North Korean Foreign Ministry called the talks with Pompeo “regrettable,” characterized the demands made by the U.S. statesmen “gangster-like,” and described the talks as “very concerning.”
“These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues,” Pompeo said of the meetings. “Some places a great deal of progress. Other place(s) there’s still more work to be done.”
The administration has not commented publicly on The Post’s report.
Photo by Stefan Krasowski via Flickr