Year-end Deadline Looms Large as N. Korea Appears to be Readying Rocket Engine Test Site
Anchor: Pyongyang appears to be ramping up the pressure on the Donald Trump administration by re-engaging in activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. The move came with a verbal warning as North Korea’s self-imposed year-end deadline for a change in Washington’s denuclearization posture fast approaches.
Arius Derr has the details.
Report: New commercial satellite imagery suggests North Korea may be preparing to resume rocket engine testing at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri.
According to CNN on Thursday, a photo captured the same day by Planet Labs shows new activity at the site as well as a large shipping container at the facility's engine test stand.
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said the presence of the shipping container suggests Pyongyang may be moving to resume testing of engines used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Located on the country’s west coast, North Korea has used the Sohae site to launch satellites into space, most recently the Kwangmyongsong-4 in 2016. The United Nations and others, however, believe such launches to be veiled attempts at testing long-range ballistic missile technology.
The renewed activity at Sohae coincides with a warning issued by North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui that U.S. President Donald Trump's recent remarks on possible military action against the North could pose a "very dangerous challenge" if they weren't made in error.
She said that any more language stoking the atmosphere of confrontation would be a relapse of the "dotage of a dotard,” reviving North Korea’s 2017 nickname for the American leader.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had promised to dismantle the Tongchang-ri facility during an inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang last September, and Trump has claimed the site was dismantled after last June's Singapore summit with Kim.
However, the renewed activity captured this week appears to show that Sohae is still operational, and may be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with the U.S.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry official said earlier this week that Pyongyang was preparing a "Christmas gift" for Washington, while warning that the present the Trump administration receives depends on events in the coming days.
Arius Derr, KBS World Radio News.
[Photo : KBS News]