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Previously Undisclosed North Korean Missile Site May Impact U.S-N.Korea Summit

The White House has not commented on the CSIS report and neither Washington nor Pyongyang has yet to officially announce the date or location.

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north korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, Sept. 16, 2017. VOA

A report released on Monday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) about a previously undisclosed North Korean missile site may have caught some casual North Korean observers by surprise. But Nam Sung-wook, professor at Korea Unification, Diplomacy and Security at Korea University, said the Sino-ri facility was previously known to both the United States and South Korean intelligence services.

“Last year the U.S. made a report about Sakkanmol and Sino-ri this January. Those are not fresh discoveries,” he said.

Archived South Korean news reports dating back to 1998 acknowledge the Sino-ri site as a facility for Nodong missiles.

The CSIS report declared that one of 20 undeclared ballistic missile bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters facility and the “Sino-ri missile operating base and the Nodong missiles deployed at this location fit into North Korea’s presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability.”

Korea, Enemy
South and North Korean officials unveil the sign of Seoul to Pyeongyang during a groundbreaking ceremony for the reconnection of railways and roads at the Panmun Station in Kaesong, North Korea, Dec. 26, 2018. VOA

Kim Dong-yub, the head of the Office of Research at the Institute for Far East Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam University, added, “Although the North has not declared the site officially, it does not mean that it is new. No countries openly announce all the military bases.”

Nam notes that the United States focuses on small details regarding denuclearization, like the dismantling of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to reduce the threat to the to the U.S. “For [President] Trump, he can use this to boast about his achievement during the second summit,” Nam said.

Implications for upcoming North Korean Summits

The CSIS report came days after the White House announced that U.S. President Donald Trump would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February and that he “looks forward” to the denuclearization talks.

In its report, CSIS said the Sino-ri base was not previously declared by Pyongyang and “does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations.”

Speaking to Reuters news agency, one of the report’s authors, Victor Cha, said “The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don’t disclose. It looks like they’re playing a game.”

Korea, Missile
Sino-ri missile base, North Korea.VOA

 

Nam assesses Trump’s focus on the talks with Kim is about eliminating threats, like ICBMs.

“It is hard to achieve complete denuclearization, so including dismantling ready-made weapons from the past, which arouse the strong opposition remains the focus on the present and the future talks. These include ICBMs and missile test sites,” said Nam.

He added that Seoul does not regard the Sino-ri facility as one that imposes a direct threat to South Korea, citing the September 19 Pyongyang Declaration and its efforts to de-escalate tension on the peninsula.

Kim Dong-yub said the CSIS report focuses too much on a connection between the missile facilities and denuclearization.

“The North already announced denuclearization and they took some steps, although some require verification,” said Kim, “So it is not proper to judge their willingness by their possessions of military bases.”

North Korea
A South Korean man reads a newspaper with the headline reporting North Korea’s rocket launch while traveling on a subway in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 13, 2012. VOA

Kim said some groups opposing talks with North Korea and may try to leverage the news to press Pyongyang for more concessions, but he says the upcoming talks between the United States and North Korea should not include these types of missile facilities, for if they do, they could detract from progress on denuclearization.

In an email to VOA, Bruce Klinger, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, wrote, “During a second summit, Trump must insist on tangible steps toward North Korean denuclearization, including a data declaration of the regime’s nuclear and missile programs. Trump shouldn’t offer more concessions nor agree to reduce U.N. and U.S. sanctions until Kim moves beyond the symbolic gestures it has taken so far.”

Also Read: Things Are Going Very Well With North Korea: U.S. President Donald Trump

The White House has not commented on the CSIS report and neither Washington nor Pyongyang has yet to officially announce the date or location of the second U.S. – North Korean summit, although some speculate it may take place in Vietnam.

In addition, local media reports in South Korea have indicated the Moon administration may attempt to host Kim in Seoul during the 100th anniversary of the March 1 independence movement. (VOA)

Next Story

North Korea Tests ‘Tactical Weapon’, Desires Removal of U.S. Secretary From Nuclear Talks

While it is not totally clear what weapon was tested, analysts say it is highly not likely that that it is a long-range missile, as that would spell an end to negotiations entirely.

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North Korea's Scud-B missile
A mock North Korea's Scud-B missile, left, and South Korean missiles are displayed at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 18, 2019. North Korea said Thursday that it had test-fired a new type of "tactical guided weapon," its first such test in nearly half a year, and a possible sign of its displeasure with deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

North Korea said Thursday it test-fired a “tactical guided weapon,” while in a separate move, the reclusive state demanded the removal of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from negotiations over its nuclear program.

Experts believe both moves are a return to Pyongyang’s strategy of brinkmanship: extreme, yet calculated actions that show the country’s resentment with the stalled negotiations with Washington.

The weapons test on Wednesday, followed by the bold demand on Pompeo, simultaneously show outsiders that North Korea won’t back down, and to show strength domestically amid internal worries that diplomacy with the U.S. indicate the regime’s weakness, analysts said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong was present at the weapons test, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

“The development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army,” he reportedly said.

During the South Korean Ministry of National Defense’s regular press briefing Thursday, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff did not give details of North Korea’s new tactical guided weapon.

The weapon, mentioned by North Korean media today is currently under review. It is not appropriate to give details of military information,” said Kim Jun-rak, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s public information office.

While Pompeo’s remarks suggested that a third U.S.-North Korea summit could happen soon, others in the administration were doubtful.
While Pompeo’s remarks suggested that a third U.S.-North Korea summit could happen soon, others in the administration were doubtful. VOA

In Washington, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon that North Korea conducted a test, but said it didn’t involve a ballistic weapon and didn’t trigger any change in U.S. military operations, the Associated Press reported.

While it is not totally clear what weapon was tested, analysts say it is highly not likely that that it is a long-range missile, as that would spell an end to negotiations entirely.

The BBC pointed out that testing a different kind of weapon allows Kim to say that he isn’t breaking any agreements not to test ICBMs, but still show North Korea has the capacity and will to develop new weapons. In essence it is a creative way to irritate North Korea’s detractors as if it tested the prohibited weapons without actually doing so.

According to one U.S. congressman it appears that Kim’s strategy is having the desired effect.

“Make no mistake about it: North Korea remains a clear and present danger to the safety and security of the American people,” said Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in a statement Wednesday night.

“These alleged actions underscore that sanctions must remain in place and new sanctions must be levied until there is complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the North Korean regime,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, said through his twitter account Thursday that the weapons test should not be taken as an indication of North Korea’s unwillingness to negotiate.

“Pundits and policy makers should refrain from automatically presuming this is an indicator of Pyongyang deliberately ratcheting up tensions or closing the door on negotiations,” said Klingner.

He said, however, that the regime was unhappy that negotiations were not proceeding smoothly in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s second summit with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam in February.

The meeting ended in disagreement over competing U.S. demands for movement on denuclearization by Pyongyang and North Korean expectations for relief from punishing economic sanctions.

“That said, there are already plenty of negative signs that negotiations aren’t going well. Kim’s speech to the Supreme People’s Assembly is a clearer signal of North Korean intentions than yesterday’s military activity,” Klingner said.

Of the weapons test, Kim, Dong-yeop, a research professor at the Kyungnam University Institute for Far East Studies in South Korea posted on his social network site, “It seems like North Korea is strengthening selective conventional weapons and have intentions to hold conventional deterrence to protect the state.”

North Korea made the demand for Pompeo’s replacement following a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in which he confirmed that in the past he has called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “tyrant.”

Pompeo also said Monday during a speech that Kim made a promise to denuclearize during the first U.S.-North Korea summit last year in Singapore.

Deal
The president is fully prepared to have a third summit if he can get a real deal. VOA

“He said he wanted it done by the end of the year,” Pompeo said during the speech. “I’d love to see that done sooner.”

North Korea’s Director General of the American Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry Kwon Jong Gun said in a statement that Pompeo misrepresented what Kim had said, that negotiations should be finalized by the year’s end.

Kwon said that Pompeo “spouted reckless remarks, hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership… to unveil his mean character”.

Also Read: More And More Women Join The Arakan Army’s Fight Against Myanmar’s Central Government

While Pompeo’s remarks suggested that a third U.S.-North Korea summit could happen soon, others in the administration were doubtful.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg News that Washington needs more concrete indications that Kim is ready to give up his nuclear arsenal before a third summit could occur.

“The president is fully prepared to have a third summit if he can get a real deal,” he said. (RFA)