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North Korea may be preparing missile, rocket launch, NPR says

US President Donald Trump, right, walks with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un during a break in talks at the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on Feb. 28, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea could be preparing to launch a missile or rocket in the near future, according to satellite images of activity at the Sanumdong facility, U.S. radio network NPR reported.

The images, taken Feb. 22, show trucks and cars parked near the facility. Rail cars sit in a nearby yard, where two cranes are erected, the report said. The pictures were taken by DigitalGlobe and shared exclusively with NPR, it said.

The facility, near the capital Pyongyang, is where North Korea has assembled some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellite-launching rockets, NPR said.

“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 Hanoi late last month after the U.S. president said the North Korean leader asked for all U.S. sanctions to be lifted in exchange for the dismantling of the country’s main nuclear complex.

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 U.S. is aware of the satellite images but hasn’t drawn the same conclusions as experts, a senior official at the U.S. 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.


(Devlin Marier reported from San Francisco and Alpeyev from Tokyo)


© 2019 Bloomberg News

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