Monday 20 August 2018

US detects 'new activity' at North Korean missile factory

A satellite image shows the Sanumdong missile production site in North Korea. Photo: Reuters
A satellite image shows the Sanumdong missile production site in North Korea. Photo: Reuters

David Brunnstrom

US spy satellites have detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States, a senior US official said, in the midst of talks to compel Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arms.

Photos and infrared imaging indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at Sanumdong.

But they do not show how advanced any missile construction might be, the official said.

'The Washington Post' reported that North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fuelled ICBMs at the large research facility on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

It cited unidentified officials familiar with intelligence reporting.

According to the US official, one photo showed a truck and covered trailer similar to those the North has used to move its ICBMs. Since the trailer was covered, it was not possible to know what, if anything, it was carrying.

The White House said it did not comment on intelligence.

The evidence obtained this month is the latest to suggest ongoing activity in North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities despite talks with the United States and a June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump declared soon afterward that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat.

Mr Kim committed in a summit statement to work toward denuclearisation, but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about that and subsequent talks have not gone smoothly.

It was not the first time US intelligence clashed with the president's optimism.

In late June, US officials told media outlets that intelligence agencies believed North Korea had increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons and that it did not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs despite its pledge to denuclearise.

But he insisted the Trump administration was still making progress in its talks with Pyongyang.

Joel Wit, a former State Department negotiator and founder of 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project, said it was unrealistic to expect North Korea to stop its programmes "until the ink is dry on an agreement".

Irish Independent

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