US officials this week detected what appears to be renewed missile activity in North Korea.
Imaging from US spy satellites shows vehicles moving in and out of the same factory that was used to produce the Hwasong-15, the first North Korean ICBM capable of reaching the United States.
The news is at odds with recent reports about North Korea dismantling a key rocket launch site and with Kim Jong-un’s promise to Trump to work towards denuclearization.
And while it is unclear exactly what is going on at the site, reports suggest the North is building at least one new liquid-fueled ICBM.
“[The Sanumdong facility] is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination,” ssyd nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis. “We see shipping containers and vehicles coming and going. This is a facility where they build ICBMs and space-launch vehicles.” Other reports suggest North Korea is upgrading its nuclear enrichment sites.
On Tuesday, North Korea held military talks with South Korea designed to improve trust and ease tensions. The two sides were expected to discuss joint excavation of soldiers killed during the Korean War, reductions in weapons and personnel at the border, and replacing the 1953 armistice with a peace treaty.
Putting an end to the Korean War is not possible without cooperation from the United States. And while Kim Jong-un views the peace treaty as a way to ensure his family’s position, the US sees it as a reward to be given after the North gives up its nukes.
“If a peace treaty to replace the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War did not ensure the survival of the current North Korean regime, it could be the end of denuclearization talks,” reports CNN.
Meanwhile, the North is pressuring the South to restart jointly-run programs that could help boost the North’s economy. The South, which has so far refused to lift sanctions on North Korea, says it will restart those programs only after it sees progress on denuclearization.
Editor’s note: While Trump and Kim Jung Un have agreed in principle, the negotiations really have just begun. We have not lifted sanctions, and it is not surprising that North Korea is holding back from disarming at this point.