Unconfirmed nuclear missile sites, tunnels found in North Korea

Unconfirmed nuclear missile sites, tunnels found in North Korea

South Korea's presidential office said that South Korea and the United States have been aware of the North Korean missile base, which a US think tank revealed and claimed to be active based on commercial satellite images. They aren't launch sites, but construction facilities for missiles of various designs.

It comes after US President Donald Trump claimed to have neutralised the North Korean threat after his landmark diplomacy this year when he met Kim Jong-un.

Researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington think tank, on Tuesday said that satellite imagery had found 13 missile bases undeclared by North Korea.

The report included a detailed profile of one such tactical missile operating base, illustrated with commercial satellite imagery, just 135km north-west of Seoul. Trump tweeted the day after the report's release.

Asked about the report, Trump's national security adviser John Bolton told reporters in Singapore on November 13 that Trump "has given North Korea an incredible opportunity to walk through a door to a different future if they denuclearize ... but they still need to do that".

Trump has said he hopes to meet again soon with Kim, but there are signs of growing friction in the negotiations with North Korean officials, which appear to have stalled.

The report singled out a base known as Sakkanmol, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of the demilitarized zone and one of the closest to South Korea.

While the State Department did not explicitly say whether they viewed the bases as a violation of any agreements with the USA, they simply reiterated the promise North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made during his summit with President Donald Trump - to denuclearize and end Pyeongyang's missile programs.

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Kim agreed to abandon his nuclear program and was willing to be inspected by global organisations in exchange for the USA to also make concessions.

The existence of the bases - which presumably would have to be declared and then dismantled under the US goal of North Korean "denuclearization" - suggests that Pyongyang's previous efforts to dismantle known missile launch sites or nuclear facilities had little impact on its nuclear program. Presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said continued activity at North Korean missile sites only underlines the need for nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang to proceed at a faster pace.

The size of the entrances, as well as the volume of soil removed, indicates the base could house a brigade-size missile unit with up to 18 mobile launchers, the report said.

The facilities identified in the new report are located in strategic locations that would put missiles in range of South Korea and Japan, according to the report.

While US sanctions on North Korea remain in place, enforcement by traditional trading partners China and Russian Federation has relaxed since the Singapore summit, US officials have acknowledged.

The Trump administration abandoned Victor Cha as its pick for the South Korean ambassador's post because Cha disagreed with the "bloody nose" preventive strike strategy proposed by some in the administration as a way to achieve the president's goal of removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula, according to analysts interviewed by the South China Morning Post at the time.

He also said it would not be appropriate to call the undeclared missile sites a "deception" by North Korea, as worded by numerous USA media, . since the North has not yet agreed to dismantle its missile bases, nor is the regime tied to a treaty or a deal to do so.

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