Represents “a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea.”
It’s been 6 weeks since the Singapore Summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un, which ended with the signing of a joint statement,.
As a reminder, the agreement included security guarantees for North Korea, a reaffirmation of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, recovery of soldiers’ remains, and follow-up negotiations. And while the first post-Singapore summit did not seem to produce significant results on any front, a new report indicates that there may be some real progress on the path to formally ending the Korean War.
Satellite images indicate North Korea has begun dismantling key facilities at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station (North Korea’s main satellite launch facility since 2012) . 38 North, a site devoted to covering North Korea, offers analysis of images obtained from commercial satellites.
…Most notably, these include the rail-mounted processing building—where space launch vehicles are assembled before moving them to the launch pad—and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea.
Commercial satellite imagery of the launch pad from July 20 shows that the rail-mounted processing/transfer structure has been moved to the middle of the pad, exposing the underground rail transfer point—one of the few times it has been seen in this location. The roof and supporting structure have been partially removed and numerous vehicles are present—including a large construction crane.
An image from two days later shows the continued presence of the crane and vehicles. Considerable progress has been made in dismantling the rail-mounted processing/transfer structure. One corner has been completely dismantled and the parts can be seen lying on the ground.
38 North included several graphics in their analysis, with comments on the status of the deconstruction.
New commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station indicates that the #DPRK has begun dismantling key facilities, including the rail-mounted processing building and and the nearby rocket engine test stand.https://t.co/ffdQ23QaWG
— 38 North (@38NorthNK) July 23, 2018
A Wall Street Journal interviewed one of the 38 North analysts, who affirms that this is a very positive development.
The moves to dismantle facilities at Sohae, on the country’s northwest coast, in contrast, “represent a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea,” said Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for 38 North.
Mr. Bermudez, relying on commercial satellite imagery from July 20 and 22, said that given the progress of the activity, the dismantling had likely begun in the past two weeks.
“These facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program,” Mr. Bermudez said of the rocket engine test stand and assembly plant.
To confirm the trend of moving toward peace, the two Koreas are preparing to install railways to reconnect the two nations.
South and North Korean officials inspected a section of the railway along the North’s east coast, Friday, as the first measure following an agreement to modernize the North’s railroads and reconnect the lines between the two Koreas.
…Within this month, the Koreas will inspect railways along the east and west coasts in the North, stretching from Mount Geumgang to the Tumen River, and from Gaeseong to Sinuiju, respectively. After completing inspections, the Koreas will draw up plans on construction, traffic and communication systems.
The North’s railway system is known to be dilapidated and is expected to require much work to modernize it.
Until denuclearization occurs, the railways will remain unconnected. However, the actions indicate that both Koreas are preparing for the exchange of goods instead of ballistic missiles.
There is one more data point to add in this post-Singapore review: Instead of reviewing nuclear weapons facilities, North Korea’s leader is now inspecting sapling farms.
His trip to the farm is seen in line with North Korea’s stepped-up push for reforestation of the country by improving sapling cultivation techniques and planting more trees.
North Korea earlier agreed with South Korea to cooperate in protecting their forests along the inter-Korean border and other areas from damage caused by harmful insects.
Here’s to hoping we can report even more progress in 6 more weeks.DONATE
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