North Korea said to be dismantling key parts of satellite launch site

Source N. Korea seeking 'bold move' from US

North Korea has begun dismantling key facilities at a site used to develop engines for ballistic missiles, according to an analysis of satellite imagery of the location, the first significant step towards denuclearisation following last month's historic summit between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.

South Korean officials have also said they detected dismantlement activities at the site, though didn't specify the exact nature of the activities.

Trump said after the June summit that Kim had pledged to dismantle one of his missile installations, which would be North Korea's most concrete concession to emerge from the Singapore meeting.

Other satellite pictures of Sohae Station show the dismantlement of a nearby rocket engine test stand previously used to run liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles by Pyongyang.

SOHAE SATELLITE LAUNCH PAD NORTH KOREA- JULY 20 2018 Figure 1. By July 20 dismantlement had begun of the rail-mounted transfer structure on the Sohae launch pad. Mandatory credit for all images DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images

"Despite reports emerging about the supposed lack of progress on North Korea's denuclearization, .it appears Pyongyang has taken a first step toward fulfilling its June 12th Joint Statement with the U.S".

"Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North's intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea", according to 38 North's Joseph Bermudez Jr.

38 North says "considerable progress" has been made in dismantling the structure used to prepare and move vehicles to the launch pad.

"If North Korea goes further and dismantle the entire Sohae site, that would meaningfully reduce the country's long-range missile capability by eliminating a facility where it could fire multiple ICBMs in succession", Lee said.

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Dr Narang says in some ways, that is consistent with North Korea's stance.

A rocket launch from Sohae space centre in 2016, shown on North Korean TV.

Though the site was meant to put satellites into orbit, United States officials claimed satellite launches effectively missile tests. "As we have stated before, we are committed to building a peace mechanism with the goal of replacing the armistice agreement when North Korea has denuclearized". "Likewise, no Nuclear Tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy", he tweeted earlier in the day.

More than 7,700 USA troops who fought in the Korean War remain unaccounted for, with about 5,300 of those lost in what is now North Korea, according to the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), the US military agency tasked with tracking down prisoners of war and troops missing in action.

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Melissa Hanham, senior research associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, said that while dismantling the engine test site was a "good move", it amounted to "the bare minimum" that could be done at Sohae.

"What we have been seeing is certain countries wanting to do waivers, certain countries saying, 'Let's lift sanctions, ' certain countries wanting to do more", she said.

"North Korea has never once said, not once have they said that they're willing to unilaterally disarm and give up their nuclear weapons program."

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