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No significant activity at N.K. missile facility: U.S. monitor

Diplomacy 05:07 March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON, March 19 (Yonhap) -- No significant activity has been observed at a North Korean missile facility since several parts were moved around in early March, a U.S. monitor said Tuesday.

The Sohae launch facility has been the focus of intense speculation after reports emerged early this month of increased activity to restore the site to normal operational status following its partial dismantlement last year.

Based on commercial satellite imagery of Sohae and a ballistic missile facility outside Pyongyang, some have speculated that North Korea could be preparing another missile launch.

"While recent activity at the Sohae Launch facility appears to have returned it to operational status after (North Korea's) dismantlement measures earlier in the summer of 2018, there has been no activity of significance at the vertical engine test stand or launch pad since our last report on Sohae," the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report, referring to its March 9 edition in which it described the repositioning of structures at the site.

"The environmental covers on the umbilical tower and the rail-mounted launch pad remain closed concealing any activity within them. There does not appear to be a launch vehicle present," the think tank added.

Tuesday's report showed commercial satellite imagery from Sunday, whereas the previous report used images from March 6 and 8.

No significant activity was noted elsewhere at the facility, CSIS said. "This site will be monitored for further activity consistent with readying the launch facility for possible use in the future."

The reports follow the collapse of last month's second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, during which the sides failed to strike a deal on the North's denuclearization in exchange for sanctions relief.

Last week a top North Korean official said Kim will decide soon whether to continue talks with the U.S. and maintain his moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

Trump has said he would be "very disappointed" if the North resumed testing.

This AFP photo shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam on Feb. 28, 2019. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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