North Korea could be preparing to launch a missile or rocket in the near future, according to satellite images of activity in the country, US radio network NPR reported, while the country’s state media said the world is blaming the US for ending the Hanoi summit without an agreement.
The images were taken on Feb. 22 at the Sanumdong facility near Pyongyang, where North Korea has assembled some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellite-launching rockets, NPR reported. They show trucks and cars parked nearby, while rail cars sit in a yard, where two cranes are erected, it said. The pictures were taken by DigitalGlobe and shared exclusively with NPR.
“When you put all that together, that’s really what it looks like when the North Koreans are in the process of building a rocket,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told NPR. Lewis said it was impossible to know if North Korea is preparing a military missile or a space rocket.
The release of the images comes after Donald Trump abruptly ended a summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam late last month after the US president said the North Korean leader asked for all US sanctions to be lifted in exchange for the dismantling of the country’s main nuclear complex.
“The public at home and abroad that had hoped for success and good results from the second DPRK-US summit in Hanoi are feeling regretful, blaming the US for the summit that ended without an agreement,” Korea Central News Agency reported, citing a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
Trump said Wednesday he’d be very disappointed in Kim if reports are accurate that North Korea has begun rebuilding a separate missile test site it dismantled last year. Images from Beyond Parallel, part of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, showed that North Korea was rebuilding a long-range rocket site at the Sohae Launch Facility.
The US is aware of the images but hasn’t drawn the same conclusions as experts, a senior official at the US State Department said March 8.
Earlier this week, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers that it detected signs of North Korea restoring part of the Tongchang-ri missile launch site it tore down in July. The comments, made during a briefing at a parliamentary session, also noted that North Korea stopped the operations of a five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex late last year with no signs of reprocessing activities there.