North Korea has apparently yet to begin work to dismantle any of its six known missile launch and engine test facilities and two ejection test stands, according to an analysis of recent satellite photos, despite a claim by U.S. President Donald Trump that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, had told him it was “already destroying” a major testing site.
The North Korea-watching 38 North website said in an analysis released Friday that recent high-resolution satellite imagery had not identified any activity that could be associated with Kim’s claim to Trump. Trump made the remarks at a news conference Tuesday after his historic summit with Kim in Singapore.
“Chairman Kim has told me that North Korea is already destroying a major missile engine testing site,” he said. “That’s not in your signed document; we agreed to that after the agreement was signed. That’s a big thing — for the missiles that they were testing, the site is going to be destroyed very soon.”
It was not clear what site he was referring to, but a report in South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo daily said that it is the Sohae satellite launch facility in Tongchang-ri in the country’s northwest, where the regime conducted a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile engine last year.
The North conducted the combustion test of the liquid-fuel, “high-thrust” engine in March last year. That test was followed four months later by the successful launch of a Hwasong-14 ICBM using the same engine. The Hwasong-14 is believed to have a range of about 10,000 km, placing much of the Western United States within striking distance.
The six known sites include the Chamjin (Tae-sung) Machine Factory test stand, the Iha-ri Driver Training and Test Facility test stand, the Magunpo Solid Rocket Motor Test Facility, the Nampo Shipyard submersible test stand barge, the Sinpo South Shipyard submersible test stand barge, the Sinpo South Shipyard test stand, the Tonghae (Musudan-ri) Satellite Launch Facility and the Sohae site, according to the analysis.
“Of these facilities and test stands, it is likely that President Trump’s comment on June 12 … was not referring to either the Iha-ri test stand — which was razed in May — or the Sinpo South Shipyard test stand that has not been used in approximately a year,” it said.
Trump said Friday that he and Kim have “great chemistry” and claimed the standoff with the nuclear-armed nation is “largely solved.”
Many observers, however, remain skeptical of the deal inked by the two leaders at their Singapore summit. The vaguely worded agreement says that the North will “work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The North said in April that it was halting all missile and nuclear tests, and ahead of the Kim-Trump summit, it said it had demolished its main Punggye-ri nuclear test site, a highly choreographed event that it invited journalists to witness. The demolition of tunnel entrances there, however, has also been greeted with skepticism, with experts saying it would be relatively easy to reopen the site.
Punggye-ri has been the staging ground for all six of the North’s nuclear tests, including its latest and most powerful one last September, which Pyongyang claimed was of a thermonuclear weapon.