Published: Tue, July 24, 2018
Finance | By Cynthia Curry

Satellite photos show North Korea ‘dismantling rocket launch site’

Satellite photos show North Korea ‘dismantling rocket launch site’

Sohae has been the North's primary rocket launch site since 2012, and South Korea - whose president brokered the landmark summit between Trump and Kim - called it a step toward denuclearisation.

Attention is also being paid as to whether the foreign ministers of South and North Korea and the USA will meet at the ASEAN Regional Forum to take place next week in Singapore.

According to USA monitoring group 38 North, Monday (local time), satellite images showed Pyongyang was dismantling its rail-mounted processing building and rocket engine test stand at the site.

While Pyongyang could be trying to build trust with Washington as they engage in talks to resolve the nuclear standoff, analysts say dismantling a few facilities at the site alone wouldn't realistically reduce North Korea's military capability or represent a material step toward de-nuclearization.

North Korea has carried out a total of six nuclear tests, the most recent of which took place in September a year ago.

The group says analysis of commercial satellite images between July 20 and July 22 shows the Sohae launch site being dismantled and may be a sign the Hermit Kingdom is fulfilling its promise made to President Trump at the Singapore Summit.

On Twitter, 38 North's founder, Joel Wit, said the images suggested that North Korea may be willing to "give up its space launch programme".

A rocket launch from Sohae space centre in 2016, shown on North Korean TV.

SOHAE SATELLITE LAUNCH PAD NORTH KOREA- JULY 20 2018 Figure 1. By July 20 dismantlement had begun of the rail-mounted transfer structure on the Sohae launch pad. Mandatory credit for all images DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images
Report says images indicate North Korea dismantling test site facilities

The dismantlement has been made as a follow-up to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's pledge to dismantle one of the missile test sites at the June 12 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. The launch in February 2016 was particularly contentious because Pyongyang had conducted a nuclear test just a month earlier.

However, Mr Trump today said he was "very happy" with the progress in relations with North Korea, saying Pyongyang had not launched any missiles or carried out any nuclear tests during the last nine months.

After an problematic meeting in Pyongyang involving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a team of North Korean officials, the North criticized the USA for making unilateral demands of North Korea while ignoring Pyongyang's expectations, with a peace treaty being high on the country's list of demands. "Wrong, very happy!" Trump wrote on Twitter, incorrectly stating the number of months since Pyongyang's last missile test on November 29.

North Korea has been calling for the engage in making a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, as a means to protect its regime through the removal of threats and hostilities.

Separately on Tuesday, South Korea's Defence Ministry said it was planning "a test reduction of some guard post troops and equipment" along the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides North and South Korea.

Jenny Town, managing editor of 38 North, which is based at Washington's Stimson Center, said the work at Sohae could be an important move to keep negotiations going.

But according to recent reports based on United States intelligence leaks, North Korea might secretly still be continuing its weapons programme.

The launching site played helped the rogue regime develop their intercontinental ballistic missile program.

USA dollar down on as Trump makes fresh threats vs China
Unlike most other currencies that float freely, China's central bank intervenes to keep the currency in a trading range. The US has since threatened tariffs on another US$200 billion in Chinese exports, prompting Beijing to vow retaliation.

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