North Korea developing ballistic missiles at 16 secret sites

North Korea developing ballistic missiles at 16 secret sites

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to work toward denuclearization at their landmark June summit in Singapore, but the agreement was short on specifics and negotiations have made little headway.

Citing new satellite pictures, the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Beyond Parallel program identified what appears to be missile operating bases that have never been acknowledged by North Korean officials.

The New York Times says the revelation "suggests a great deception", with Pyongyang quietly continuing its ballistic missile program and even making improvements at these secret sites while publicly declaring its intention to dismantle its main missile launch site.

Last week, North Korea called off a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in NY, and state media said on Monday the resumption of some small-scale military drills by South Korea and the United States violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula. As of this month, "the base is active and being reasonably well-maintained by North Korean standards" with minor infrastructure changes.

He has said sanctions would stay in place until North Korea disarmed, but that he was "no rush" to force the pace of disarmament.

CSIS said that while these were operating bases and not launch sites, they could be used as launch sites if necessary.

The size of the entrances, as well as the volume of soil removed, indicates the base could house a brigade-size missile unit with up to 18 mobile launchers, the report said.

The Hwasong-12 long-range missile, above, was in development at an undisclosed site in North Korea in April a year ago.

"President Trump is getting played by Kim Jong Un", Edward J. Markey, a Democrat of MA and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement released Monday after the publication of the CSIS report.

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One of the sites in question is the Sakkanmol Missile Operating Base, which sits about 85 miles from the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.

The bases, which are located in "mountainous terrain, often spread out within narrow dead-end valleys", they write, could be used to deploy mobile missile launchers, which would be extremely hard for other nations to track and stop before the missiles could be fired.

The sites identified in the report are scattered in remote, mountainous areas across North Korea.

"I'm very pleased North Korea hasn't tested any more missiles, but while it hasn't tested them, it continues to produce them", Fitzpatrick said.

North Korea was believed to have launched several short-range missiles from the Sakkanmol base in 2016.

The cancellation, which the U.S. ascribed to scheduling issues, followed threats from North Korean officials to resume nuclear and missile testing unless USA sanctions are lifted.

Recently, North Korea has demanded that the United States end its tough economic sanctions now that it is negotiating with Trump over its nuclear program. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the meeting that was set for last Thursday in NY "will now take place at a later date".

The presidential office said the secret bases at Sakkanmol are designed for short-range ballistic missiles and that the South Korean military has been monitoring the sites closely with the USA via military satellites.

Analysts have long believed that North Korea had undeclared or hidden facilities in their missile programme, which has made issues related to verification and inspections a major part of working level talks between the United States and North Korea.

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