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S. Korean defense chief downplays concerns about N.K. missile activity

Defense 15:11 March 18, 2019

SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo on Monday dismissed the burgeoning speculation about the possibility that North Korea is preparing for a missile launch, calling it "rash."

Recent media reports and U.S. think tank analyses on activities at the North's west coast Dongchang-ri rocket launch site and the Sanumdong missile research center near Pyongyang have fueled that speculation.

"Describing them missile-related activities is a rash judgment," Jeong said during a session of the National Assembly's defense committee. "Though Dongchang-ri is a launch site, we don't judge them as activities in preparation for a missile launch."

Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo speaks during a parlimanentary session at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 18, 2019. (Yonhap)

The communist regime has been seen rebuilding the Dongchang-ri missile launch facility it partially dismantled last year. Some analysts said that it might be a negotiation tactic following the breakup of the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi last month.

The latest Trump-Kim summit ended without a deal, as the two sides played hardball over the scope of Pyongyang's denuclearization and Washington's sanctions relief.

Asked if the North has been conducting any nuclear activity, the minister gave a cryptic answer.

"We are grasping all such activity," he said.

Reports raised skepticism over Pyongyang's willingness to denuclearize, saying that it has been producing enough ingredients for several nuclear bombs even during negotiations with Washington.

The North's nuclear and missile activities have cast a pall over the prospects of ongoing diplomacy for its nuclear disarmament and raised questions over the efficacy of Seoul's intermediary role between Pyongyang and Washington.


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