Satellite Shows ‘Rapid Pace’ of Work at North Korea Missile Site

North Korean soldiers march during a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012. Recent satellite images suggest that the Kim Jong Un regime has sped up the pace of work on a number of construction projects at its main missile launch complex.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Add to Briefcase
Rachel Oswald
May 20, 2014, 10:24 a.m.

A new im­age ana­lys­is sug­gests that North Korea has dra­mat­ic­ally sped up the pace of work on con­struc­tion pro­jects at its main mis­sile launch site.

Com­mer­cial satel­lite pho­to­graphs taken as re­cently as May 10 have re­vealed not­able pro­gress on “a num­ber of im­port­ant con­struc­tion pro­jects” at the Dongchang-ri rock­et site, said im­age ex­perts Nick Hansen and Jack Liu in a Tues­day re­port for 38 North.

“While it is too soon to make a defin­it­ive judg­ment on their pur­pose, one work­ing hy­po­thes­is is that the North is build­ing a new com­plex to con­duct fu­ture train­ing and launches for mo­bile mis­siles such as the KN-08 in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile,” the ex­perts said.

Hansen and Liu say their hy­po­thes­is meshes with the ap­par­ent rock­et en­gine tests of the KN-08 that have been de­tec­ted in re­cent weeks and months. North Korea has yet to test-launch the road-mo­bile mis­sile, but for­eign ana­lysts be­lieve it is de­signed to have con­tin­ent-span­ning flight cap­ab­il­it­ies. At least three en­gine tests of the mis­sile are un­der­stood to have oc­curred so far, ac­cord­ing to 38 North. Hansen pre­vi­ously said that the next lo­gic­al step in Py­ongy­ang’s de­vel­op­ment of the long-range mis­sile would be to con­duct a flight test.

While the con­struc­tion pro­jects were ob­served pre­vi­ously, the re­cent “rap­id pace” of work on them sug­gests they are a “high pri­or­ity” for the Kim Jong Un re­gime, ac­cord­ing to 38 North, which is a pro­ject of the U.S.-Korea In­sti­tute at Johns Hop­kins Uni­versity. The pro­jects in­clude a large new fa­cil­ity that — in the space of a little more than a month — went from hav­ing no found­a­tion to hav­ing a com­pleted cir­cu­lar level and four ad­di­tion­al lower levels on the in­side that give it the ap­pear­ance of an am­phi­theat­er from space.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a newly cleared area can be seen con­nec­ted to the cir­cu­lar fa­cil­ity that might be in­ten­ded for fu­ture use as a flat sur­face for train­ing mo­bile mis­sile units, the re­port said.

The May 10 satel­lite im­ages also show that work to aug­ment a mis­sile launch tower at Dongchang-ri “is con­tinu­ing at a slower pace than ini­tially pro­jec­ted, pos­sibly be­cause of high­er pri­or­ity work” at oth­er parts of the site, the ana­lysts said. The fir­ing tower pre­vi­ously had been used for the launch­ing of space rock­ets that have a dir­ect bear­ing on North Korea’s de­vel­op­ment of ICBMs.

38 North now be­lieves the al­ter­a­tions to the launch tower will not be fin­ished be­fore the middle of the sum­mer, after they were earli­er pro­jec­ted to be com­pleted by March or April. This means that no new space rock­et launch is likely to oc­cur at Dongchang-ri be­fore the end of the sum­mer, ac­cord­ing to the ana­lysts.

What We're Following See More »
TEN SAILORS MISSING
USS John McCain Collides with Merchant Ship in Pacific
12 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"The USS John McCain, a destroyer in the U.S. Navy, collided with a merchant ship east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca." The Navy said ten sailors are missing and five more are injured. The ship is sailing back to port under its own power.

Source:
HAS BEEN HINTING AT A TROOP DRAWDOWN
Trump to Make Prime Time Address on Afghanistan
12 minutes ago
THE LATEST

After hinting lately that he'd prefer to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan and give the Afghan people more responsibility for their security, President Donald Trump will address the issue 9:00 p.m. from Fort Myer in Arlington on Monday night.

TRUST FOR NATIONAL MALL SET TO REFURBISH SITE
New Jefferson Memorial Exhibit Will Acknowledge His Owning of Slaves
13 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

"An exhibit alongside the nation's chief memorial to Thomas Jefferson will receive an update that reflects 'the complexity' of his status as a founder of the United States and a slaveholder, according to stewards of the National Mall." The Trust for the National Mall, which works with the National Park Service to maintain the Mall, "has been planning to raise money to refurbish the National Park Service exhibit accompanying the memorial, which has deteriorated since its installment about 20 years ago." An official with the Trust told the Washington Examiner: "We can reflect the momentous contributions of someone like Thomas Jefferson, but also consider carefully the complexity of who he was. And that's not reflected right now in the exhibits."

Source:
WILL TEST THE NORTH’S STANDDOWN
Joint U.S., South Korea War Games Set to Begin
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A new cycle of escalation on the Korean Peninsula looks set to begin this week when the U.S. and South Korea kick off annual military exercises that have a history of enraging Pyongyang." The long-planned drills, set to last ten days, "will test whether North Korea’s apparent easing of its immediate threat to Guam proves durable—or if the de-escalation was really a backdown at all."

Source:
SAYS TRUMP JUST ATTACKING REPUBLICANS
Former Top Aide to McConnell Says GOPers Should Abandon Trump
3 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login