Report: North Korea continuing to upgrade ballistic missile facility

New satellite imagery shows North Korea expanding and improving a solid-fuel ballistic missile production factory according to researchers. This comes as U.S. intelligence says North Korea is unlikely to willing give up its nuclear weapons.


The photos, published Monday by the Wall Street Journal, indicate the site underwent a “major expansion” during the weeks leading up to Trump’s landmark meeting with Kim Jong Un, between April 27 and June 12, according to researchers from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.

The report said the facility, located in the city of Hamnhung, makes solid-fuel and missiles that can hit US military bases in Asia, and equipment for warheads that could be used to strike American soil.

On Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said the United States has a plan that would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a year, despite mounting intelligence that Pyongyang doesn’t intend to fully give up its arsenal.

Bolton said top US diplomat Mike Pompeo will be discussing that plan with North Korea in the near future. Bolton added that it would be to the North’s advantage to cooperate to see sanctions lifted quickly and aid from South Korea and Japan start to flow.

Bolton’s remarks on CBS’ “Face the Nation” appeared to be the first time the Trump administration had publicly suggested a timeline for North Korea to fulfill the commitment Kim made at the summit with Trump for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

But the Singapore meeting failed to clearly define denuclearization or produce a specific timeline toward dismantling the North’s atomic weapons arsenal.

Despite Trump’s rosy post-summit declaration that the North no longer poses a nuclear threat, Washington and Pyongyang have yet to negotiate the terms under which it would relinquish the weapons that it developed over decades to deter the US.

Doubts over North Korea’s intentions have deepened amid reports that it is continuing to produce fissile material for weapons.

The Washington Post on Saturday cited unnamed US intelligence officials as concluding that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile. Evidence collected since the June 12 summit in Singapore points to preparations to deceive the US about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, according to the report.

It said the findings support a new, previously undisclosed Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize. Some aspects of the new intelligence were reported Friday by NBC News.

A US official told The Associated Press that the Post’s report was accurate and that the assessment reflected the consistent view across US government agencies for the past several weeks. The official was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

Bolton on Sunday declined to comment on intelligence matters.

The reports come on the heels of satellite images showing that North Korea is carrying out rapid improvements to its nuclear research facility.

In May, the North blew up its aged but only nuclear test site at Punggye-ri — where it had staged six atomic tests — in a show of goodwill before the summit.

But the respected 38 North monitoring group said last week that not only were operations continuing at the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear site, it was also carrying out infrastructure works, citing recent satellite imagery.

“Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at… Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace,” it said.

It noted “continued operations” at the North’s uranium enrichment plant and several new installations at the site — including an engineering office and a driveway to a building housing a nuclear reactor.

But continued operations at the site “should not be seen as having any relationship with North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize,” it added.

Nuclear officials could be “expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang,” it said.

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