North Korea-focused blog 38 North won't stop poking holes in President Trump's assurances that the US-North Korea relationship remains good and that Chairman Kim had promised to hold off on missile tests as negotiations continue.
After reporting on the latest batch of satellite images suggesting that North Korea had started rebuilding one of its long-range missile sites (a site that the North insists is for use in its space program), the paper pushed the threat level up on a notch on Thursday when it reported that the site may be operational once again - raising the prospect that North Korea could soon resume its destabilizing missile tests.
According to analysts who regularly work with the blog, a close look at the satellite images released earlier this week suggests that the site is currently operational. The analysts also determined that construction on the site likely began before the latest US-North Korea summit in Hanoi.
Here's more from 38 North:
Commercial satellite imagery from March 6 of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) indicates construction to rebuild the launch pad and engine test stand that began before the Hanoi Summit has continued at a rapid pace. Given that construction plus activity at other areas of the site, Sohae appears to have returned to normal operational status.
At the launch pad, work on the rail-mounted transfer structure appears to have been completed by March 6 and the structure may now be operational. The cranes have been removed from the pad and the overhead trusses that were being installed on the roof have been covered. The mobile structure is now situated at the far end of the launch pad adjacent to the checkout building.
Though the analysts cautioned that poor image quality has prevented a definitive assessment.
The determination sheds new light on President Trump's comments, made to a group of reporters yesterday, that he would be "very, very disappointed" if the reports turned out to be true, though he offered the caveat: "We'll see what happens."
Figure 1. Rail-mounted transfer building is being rebuilt.
Figure 2. Engine support structure of the engine test stand is being reassembled.
We can't help put note the coincidence that the reemergence of anxieties surrounding North Korea's missile program has coincided with furious negotiations between the US and China over a sweeping trade deal.