all eyes on north korea
March 5, 2019

Satellite photos taken on March 2, two days after President Trump's summit in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, show that the country is "rapidly rebuilding" the long-range rocket site at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station, the only operational space launch facility in North Korea, NBC News reports.

The images and analysis came from researchers at Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who say space launches and intercontinental ballistic missile launches use similar technology. One of the report's authors, Victor Cha, said activity is "evident at the vertical engine test stand and the launch pad's rail-mounted rocket transfer structure. The activity they are undertaking now is consistent with preparations for a test, though the imagery thus far does not show a missile being moved to the launch pad."

Following the first summit between Trump and Kim in 2018, some facilities at Sohae were dismantled, and Beyond Parallel analysts determined the facility "has been dormant since August 2018, indicating the current activity is deliberate and purposeful." Other researchers have said work never stopped at the facility, with low-level activity seen in October, NBC News reports.

Earlier this year, Beyond Parallel revealed satellite images taken in late December show North Korea has as many as 20 undisclosed missile sites scattered across the country. Catherine Garcia

January 21, 2019

Researchers have found an undisclosed ballistic missile base in North Korea, and say there could be as many as 20 secret bases across the country.

Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by the defense think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, released a report on Monday that revealed the existence of the Sino-ri Missile Operating Base, 130 miles north of the DMZ. Satellite photos of the base taken in late December show an entrance to an underground bunker, hardened shelters, and the headquarters of the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Forces missile brigade. Beyond Parallel says the base has been crucial in the development of ballistic missiles able to reach Japan, South Korea, and Guam.

In February, the U.S. and North Korea will meet for a second nuclear summit, and one of the report's authors, Victor Cha, told NBC News the North Koreans are "not going to negotiate over things they don't disclose." Even if North Korea agreed to dismantle all nuclear facilities that have been disclosed to the United States, "they're still going to have all this operational capability," Cha added. Catherine Garcia

December 6, 2018

New satellite images show that North Korea is expanding a missile base in a remote area near the Chinese border, and researchers say it's likely being used to house long-range missiles.

The images of Yeongjeo-dong show there has been construction not only at the existing facility, but also at a second site about seven miles away, NPR reports. The imagery was analyzed at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and senior research associate Catherine Dill said Pyongyang is "constructing hardened drive-through shelters for the vehicles that would carry long-range missiles, and they are also constructing tunnel entrances."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have told President Trump during their meeting this June that he wanted to work toward denuclearization, but the images paint a different picture. "They started construction before the Singapore summit and they've continued it since then," Dill said. Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2018

In a joint statement released Wednesday after their two-day meeting in Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to establish buffer zones along land and sea borders and create a joint military committee that will work to ease tensions and prevent any accidental clashes.

Moon said Kim agreed to let international experts watch as North Korea permanently dismantles a missile engine test site and launch pad, and said if the United States takes corresponding measures, he will take additional steps toward denuclearization, including shutting down North Korea's main nuclear complex.

The two Koreas have also agreed to cooperate in sports events, like the 2020 Summer Olympics, and will try to get the rights to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics. Kim vowed to visit Seoul "in the near future," and if he does make the trip, he will become the first North Korean leader to visit since the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia

August 3, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn't think North Korea is keeping its promises.

Pompeo on Friday said that North Korea's continued construction of ballistic missiles is "inconsistent" with its pledge to work toward denuclearization, reports Reuters.

Satellite images gathered earlier this week showed that North Korea is working on new weapons, despite leader Kim Jong Un signing a document promising to work to end his country's nuclear programs. Kim met with President Trump in Singapore in June, where the two leaders created a vague denuclearization pledge.

"Chairman Kim made a commitment to denuclearize," Pompeo told reporters Friday when asked about the new evidence of nuclear weapon development. "The world demanded that [North Korea] do so in the U.N. Security Council resolutions. To the extent they are behaving in a manner inconsistent with that, they are a) in violation of one or both the U.N. Security Council resolutions and b) we can see we still have a ways to go to achieve the ultimate outcome we're looking for."

Trump has tweeted that North Korea is "no longer a nuclear threat," but intelligence officials aren't so sure that Pyongyang is really willing to give up its weapons programs. Pompeo last week acknowledged that North Korean facilities "continue to produce fissile material," but reassured lawmakers that denuclearization talks were still on track. Read more at Reuters. Summer Meza

July 30, 2018

New satellite images and intelligence gathered by the United States point toward North Korea constructing one or two liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles, officials with knowledge of the matter tell The Washington Post.

The photos are of a research facility on the outskirts of Pyongyang, the same place where North Korea produced its first ICBMs, capable of striking the U.S. The new intelligence doesn't show that North Korea is expanding its nuclear capabilities, but it's evidence they are still working on weapons following North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's June summit with President Trump, the Post says.

During the summit, Kim agreed to "work toward" the "denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula, but he never explicitly agreed to give up his nuclear program. Following their meeting, Trump tweeted that North Korea is "no longer a Nuclear Threat," but intelligence gathered by the United States shows senior North Korean officials have talked about pulling a fast one on the U.S., possibly saying they are fully denuclearized and getting rid of some warheads while keeping dozens more. Read more about their strategy at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

June 27, 2018

Satellite images of North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center show that "improvements to the infrastructure ... are continuing at a rapid pace," analysts from the 38north website said.

After President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met earlier this month in Singapore, they issued a joint statement agreeing to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," without sharing any details on when and how this will happen. 38north founder Joel Wit said he does not "find it surprising at all" that work is ongoing at the site, since "we don't have a deal yet, we just have a general commitment." 38north's report concludes that uranium enrichment appears to be underway at the site, which currently produces enough material to make two or three bombs every two years.

James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program, told NBC News that if North Korea was "serious about unilaterally disarming, of course they would have stopped work at Yongbyon. There is a huge gulf between what the administration apparently thinks North Korea is going to do and what they intend to do, and that's exceptionally dangerous." Catherine Garcia

June 5, 2018

Hawkish U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was not in the Oval Office last Friday when President Trump met with Kim Jong Un's North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol, and one reason is that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told Trump it would be "counterproductive" to let Bolton attend the meeting, CNN reports, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Pompeo, who did attend the Kim meeting, and Bolton did not know each other well before Trump appointed Bolton to lead the National Security Council, and their already strained relationship combusted after Bolton went on TV last month and suggested North Korea might follow the grisly "Libya model," two sources tell CNN. One official told CNN that Pompeo believes Bolton is "trying to advance his own agenda." Pompeo angrily confronted Bolton after the Libya comment, and "there has been considerable tension between them ever since," a person familiar with the West Wing confrontation said. A National Security Council spokesman said "any rumor of a confrontation between Ambassador Bolton and Secretary Pompeo is categorically false."

"Trump has given his secretary of state, whom he views as intelligent and charismatic, considerable leeway on North Korea — including following his lead and keeping Bolton at arm's length from the negotiations," CNN reports. That said, Trump is known for changing his mind on advisers pretty quickly. Peter Weber

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