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After Trump-Kim summit, North Korea rebuilds rocket site, images show

New satellite images indicate North Korea started rapidly rebuilding a rocket launch site just days after a summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un failed to achieve a breakthrough on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. 

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the think tank that obtained and analyzed the images, said it spotted the activity at the Sohae (Tongchang-ri) launch facility. It’s located in the northwestern part of North Korea.

The Trump-Kim summit ended abruptly on February 28 after the two leaders could not agree on how to scale down Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Kim wanted sanctions relief for dismantling parts of its nuclear facilities. Trump wasn’t willing to give it. 

The satellite images were taken March 2.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House. 

Joel Wit, a former official at the State Department and the founder of 38 North, a North Korea monitoring website, cautioned against reading too much into the development.

“There is no evidence that #DPRK (North Korea) rebuilding of facilities is consistent with preparations for an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) test,” he wrote on Twitter

“Aside from the fact that #DPRK has never tested an ICBM from Sohae – it’s a space launch vehicle launch site – preparation for any launch would require a wide range of activities not observed in the imagery,” he added. 

More: North Korea avoids sanctions by serving cold noodles at ‘Pyongyang’ restaurants

More: Exclusive: Pompeo on the failed North Korea talks, Otto Warmbier 

North Korea earlier agreed to close the Sohae site as part of a trust-building exercise with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Previous satellite pictures, taken in August, indicated that workers had started dismantling the facility.

Sohae has been used in the past for satellite launches that use intercontinental ballistic missile technology banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions.

It is not a nuclear facility. 

CSIS described North Korea’s actions at Sohae as “deliberate and purposeful” and a reflection of Pyongyang’s “plans to demonstrate resolve in the face of U.S. rejection.”

CLOSE

While President Trump and Chairman Kim discussed denuclearization in Vietnam, North Korean hackers continued attacks on various U.S. and European companies. Veuer’s Justin Kircher has the story.
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