N. Korea developing ballistic missiles at 16 secret bases, NY Times reports

Posted on : 2018-11-13 17:23 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Observers point out report is based on satellite images taken before N. Korea-US summit
The Beyond Parallel website operate by US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). (Reuters/Yonhap News)
The Beyond Parallel website operate by US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). (Reuters/Yonhap News)

North Korea is continuing its ballistic missile development at 16 secret bases besides its missile test site (West Sea satellite launch side) in Tongchang Village, which it announced plans to dismantle during its negotiations with the US, the New York Times reported on Nov. 12 citing a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report and satellite images.

But observers claimed the report is insufficiently grounded in facts, noting that the “secret facilities” include sites that have already been made public.

The New York Times article suggested North Korea was engaged in a “great deception,” continuing development efforts to improve the launch capabilities of its conventional and nuclear missiles at around a dozen other facilities after pledging to dismantle – and partially proceeding with its dismantlement of – the Tongchang Village missile test site.

The piece also claimed the activities by North Korea contradicted the diplomatic achievements touted by US President Donald Trump, who claimed that North Korea’s nuclear and missile development had “stopped” through bilateral negotiations.

As evidence, the article pointed to satellite images taken on Mar. 29 by the private satellite company Digital Globe showing missile-related facilities at Sakkanmol in Hwangju County, North Hwanghae Province. The facilities are built along a narrow valley in a mountainous area, with seven long tunnels inside the base allowing entry by up to 18 missile transport vehicles, it claimed. The piece also said that while other countries store missiles in underground silos that are vulnerable to pre-emptive attacks, North Korea built its missile bases in a narrow mountain valley that would be difficult to detect and attack from the outside.

Article’s focus on discrediting Trump’s progress on North Korea

The article tone’s was focused on criticizing the results of Trump’s negotiations with North Korea. The newspaper claimed that while North Korea’s missile launches have indeed stopped as Trump said, nuclear material production is still going on, along with new nuclear weapon development and development of missiles that can be fired from mobile launchers concealed in mountainous regions.

It also noted that North Korea had declared its commitment to denuclearization in order to resume trade with Russia and China, resulting in improvements in North Korea-US relations and the loosening of sanctions.

Victor Cha, who led the drafting of the CSIS report used as a basis for the article was critical of the Trump administration’s negotiations with North Korea.

“It’s not like these bases have been frozen,” Cha was quoted saying.

“Work is continuing. What everybody is worried about is that Trump is going to accept a bad deal [with North Korea],” he continued.

When asked about the matter by the New York Times, a US State Department spokesperson said the US government views the additional facilities as also needing to be dismantled, adding that Trump has “made clear that should Chairman Kim [Jong-un] follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people.”

The newspaper did not state why the 16 sites were indicated as “secret” North Korean nuclear and missile facilities. The satellite images appearing the article were also taken on Mar. 29, which was before the North Korea-US summit occurred and North Korea pledged to dismantle its Tongchang missile test site. Sakkanmol, the site the article referred to as a “secret” base, was already known to be a missile base following a 2016 missile launch by North Korea.

“To begin with, it’s problematic that [the article] misrepresents satellite images from a long time ago as though they reflect North Korea’s recent activities,” said Kim Dong-yeop, a military expert and professor at Kyungnam University Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

“North Korea has declared a moratorium on missile test launches and openly stated its plans to dismantle the West Sea satellite launch site at Tongchang,” Kim noted.

“The US will need to present corresponding measures such as the loosening of sanctions before North Korea will be able to honor its conditional promise and halt its current nuclear and missile development activities.”

By Park Min-hee and Noh Ji-won, staff reporters

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles