North Korea Has Begun Dismantling Rocket Launch Facility, Satellite Images Show

Some analysts say the site is old and obsolete and was going to be destroyed anyway.

North Korea appears to have begun the process of dismantling some parts of a key rocket launch site, suggesting that the regime is perhaps honoring its commitment to denuclearization.

As The Guardian reports, satellite images obtained by 38 North, a Washington think-tank that monitors developments on the Korean Peninsula, show that key parts of the Sohae satellite launching station are being taken down.

Satellite photos show a rail-mounted building where rockets are assembled, then moved to the launch pad, being taken down. Two old fuel oxidizers have been demolished. A test stand superstructure has been completely removed, and even its base is being destroyed.

Based on the time stamps of before-and-after satellite images, it appears that the work in dismantling the test site has taken place within the past two weeks. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s been about two weeks since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang.

It remains unclear if the dismantling of the site is in response to the Trump administration’s efforts at denuclearizing the Kim Jong-un regime, or if Sohae is a disused site that was going to be taken down anyway.

If the regime is indeed taking down a nuclear site in accordance with the Trump administration’s denuclearization efforts, then it’s a good sign, says 38 North spokesman Joseph Bermudez.

“[This is] an important first step toward fulfilling a commitment [towards the denuclearization pledge] made by Kim Jong-un.”

However, CNN international analyst Will Ripley downplays the significance of the dismantling of Sohae. In a tweet, he claims that Sohae is outdated and that the North’s dismantling of it is little more than much ado about not a lot.

“Sohae Launch Site is old news for North Korea. They launched liquid fueled rockets there. Now they’ve moved to solid fuel, much easier to launch quickly. Dismantling Sohae is kinda like taking apart the old Chevy while putting fresh tires on the Porsche.”

The Trump administration has found itself short on good news coming from North Korea ever since Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore. Though touted as a decades-in-the-making victory for the U.S., actual progress has been hard to come by, and North Korea’s level of cooperation has been called into question as well.

Meanwhile, according to Pompeo, North Korea has been evading oil sanctions by what amounts to smuggling. Meanwhile, China, upset over the Trump administration’s tariffs, is reportedly discouraging North Korea from fully cooperating with its denuclearization commitments.

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