Satellite imagery gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies indicates that North Korea is building new ballistic missiles at a factory just outside its capital, according to The Washington Post.
The newspaper, quoting “officials familiar with the intelligence,” says North Korea is working on “one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs” at its Sanumdong facility on the outskirts of Pyongyang.
The report follows last month’s summit in Singapore between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after which Trump hailed in a tweet that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
On Tuesday, North and South Korea held their second round of military talks since June, when the first such meeting took place at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where the two sides pledged to halt “all hostile acts.”
According to the Post‘s latest report, “The new intelligence does not suggest an expansion of North Korea’s capabilities but shows that work on advanced weapons is continuing …”
The newspaper writes:
“The Sanumdong factory has produced two of North Korea’s ICBMs, including the powerful Hwasong-15, the first with a proven range that could allow it to strike the U.S. East Coast. The newly obtained evidence points to ongoing work on at least one Hwasong-15 at the Sanumdong plant, according to imagery collected by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in recent weeks.
‘We see them going to work, just as before,’ said one U.S. official.”
The Post quotes officials as saying that the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on North Korea’s west coast is an exception to the “business as usual” assessment. As we wrote last week quoting the 38 North monitoring site, the North has reportedly begun dismantling that facility, which was used in part to test new liquid-fuel rocket engines.
Liquid-fueled ICBMs, such as the Hwasong-15, require lead time to be ready for launch and are therefore considered less destabilizing than solid-fueled rockets, which can quickly be prepared for a first strike.
Last year, however, The Diplomat reported that Pyongyang had test-fired a new solid-fuel motor that could be used to upgrade earlier liquid-fueled missiles. Some of the North’s ballistic missiles, including a submarine-launched variant, are already used in solid-fuel motors.
Earlier this month — and just weeks after the Trump-Kim summit — The Wall Street Journal reported that North Korea was expanding its main facility for producing solid-fuel ballistic missiles, located in the city of Hamhung.
However, in an article published on 38 North last week, author Gareth Porter took the media to task for its reporting on North Korea’s moves toward denuclearization highlighting disagreement within the intelligence community and inside the Trump administration.
“Major media reporting on what is alleged to be intelligence and photographic evidence that North Korea intends to deceive the United States in negotiations on denuclearization has been extraordinarily misleading,” Porter writes.
He charges that coverage does not reflect evidence on covert facilities, “but rather deep suspicions of North Korean intentions within the intelligence community that have been fed to the media by individuals within the administration who are unhappy with the direction of the president’s North Korea policy following the Singapore Summit.”
In an article published days earlier on the site, author Leon V. Sigal singled out the Post for “impatient reporting” that he said anticipated an unrealistic timeline for North Korean denuclearization.