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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 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.”

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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

U.S. Has A Long To-Do List In Front Of Them

U.S. congressional lawmakers return to work this week with a lengthy agenda of contentious issues and only 41 legislative days left

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The Capitol Hill building is pictured in Washington, Sept. 5, 2019. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet) VOA

U.S. congressional lawmakers return to work this week with a lengthy agenda of contentious issues and only 41 legislative days left in the year to complete it.

Members of the U.S. Senate and House spent the past six weeks vacationing, taking official fact-finding trips and meeting with constituents and financial supporters. They now return to Capitol Hill facing problems that festered in their absence. Arguably the most pressing challenge will be funding the government ahead of the new fiscal year Oct. 1.

Here is a list of the problems that will keep lawmakers busy heading into the 2020 presidential and congressional election year.

Budget

Lawmakers have just 13 working days to pass a batch of spending bills before government funding runs out at the end of the current fiscal year Sept. 30.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., smiles after vote on a hard-won budget deal that would permit the government to resume borrowing to pay all of its obligations and would remove the prospect of a government shutdown in October. VOA

Before the summer recess, the Democratic-controlled House passed 10 of the 12 annual appropriations bills to keep government departments and agencies operating and to fund defense and social service programs.

The Senate will immediately begin work on its version of the dozen spending bills.

In the unlikely event that both chambers manage to approve all 12 bills, House members and senators would have to reconcile differences in their bills before sending them to the White House for the president’s signature.

Congress and the president will almost certainly have to agree on one or more short-term funding bills to keep the government open until differences are worked out.

The last thing Republicans and Democrats want to see is a government shutdown heading into a crucial election year.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that a short-term continuing resolution (CR) “would be no more than 60 days,” meaning that — just as in 2018 — Congress would run into a budget battle at the end of the year.

Gun control

While Congress was out of session, the nation was wracked by three high-profile mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that renewed the call for legislative action on gun control. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unsuccessfully urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the Senate back into session in August.

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President Donald Trump speaks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Washington. VOA

The House Judiciary Committee plans to take action this week by drafting new gun control legislation that would, among other things, ban the sale of high-capacity bullet magazines.

The House passed background check legislation in February that has since languished in the Republican-controlled Senate. In the wake of the mass shootings, Democratic lawmakers called for the passage of “red flag laws” that allow law enforcement officials or family members to petition a court to remove weapons from high-risk individuals.

McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview recently that “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it, it’ll become law, I’ll put it on the floor.”

But President Donald Trump has provided little clarity on what kind of gun control legislation he would sign, while seemingly towing the line of the National Rifle Association, which opposes any gun control measures.

Trump initially tweeted, “Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people,” only to criticize red flag laws in a subsequent tweet and warn that gun laws are “a slippery slope” that would lead to the end of the Second Amendment. Without the president’s political cover, Senate Republicans are highly unlikely to brave a risky battle to pass such legislation.

Impeachment

The House is returning to work with the majority of the Democratic caucus either calling for impeachment proceedings to begin or stating publicly the president’s actions are deserving of impeachment. To date, 137 of 235 House Democrats and Congressman Justin Amash — the chamber’s lone independent — support impeachment.

 

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 26, 2019. VOA
 Pelosi has so far resisted the push for impeachment, emphasizing the need to win public support for the effort. A July 30 Quinnipiac University poll found that 32% of voters supported Congress beginning the process of impeaching Trump, with 60% of voters saying it should not begin those proceedings.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler muddled that message over the summer recess by telling CNN in an Aug. 8 interview that Democrats’ efforts to obtain evidence through numerous court filings already constituted “formal impeachment proceedings.”

But Democrats agree that a floor vote on impeachment cannot happen until rulings are handed down in numerous court cases in which Democrats are seeking key documents in the investigations into Trump’s finances and foreign dealings.

In the meantime, the House Judiciary Committee announced plans to investigate allegations Trump violated campaign finance laws by paying “hush money” to cover up affairs with adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy playmate Karen McDougal.

ALSO READ: Russia Accuses Facebook, Google of Election Interference

Additional issues

Lawmakers could also consider ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — a top priority of Trump’s.

In an August “Dear Colleagues” letter, Pelosi said the House working group was in discussion with the Trump administration about the need to include environmental protections, lower prescription drug costs and strong labor standards among other concerns before the agreement could come up for a vote.

The Senate will also vote on a two-part resolution that will allow lawmakers to demand greater oversight over Trump administration arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (VOA)