- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2018

North Korea has reportedly taken more steps to dismantle a key launch facility that is being cited as evidence Pyongyang is moving to fulfill commitments made to President Trump at the June 12 summit in Singapore.

The website 38 North, which closely tracks military and political developments inside North Korea, reported Tuesday that commercial satellite imagery taken Aug. 3 shows more of the facilities and infrastructure apparently being modified or removed from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. Intelligence analysts say the site has served as an important testing site for the long-range ballistic missiles developed by North Korea to deliver its arsenal of nuclear weapons.

“At the vertical engine test stand, used for testing and development of engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, the North Koreans have continued to tear down the steel base structure and appear to be removing fuel and oxidizer tanks from dismantled bunkers,” analyst Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. wrote.

At the launch pad itself, walls surrounding the rail-mounted transfer structure used to support rocket launches have been partially dismantled, with their components nearby, the satellite images show.

The website was the first to report last month preliminary work to tear down parts of the Sohae site.

President Trump has defended the results of the Singapore summit even as administration officials have pressed the regime of Kim Jong Un to take concrete, permanent steps to denuclearize.

The 38 North analysis Tuesday said the launch pad activity “appears to go beyond” Mr. Kim’s Singapore commitment, but also cautioned that much of the activity at Sohae is ambiguous and easily reversible.

The dismantling of the test stand and the modifications to the launch pad site — believed to be the only facility of its kind in the North — “must be viewed cautiously as ‘first steps’ since neither [is] presently permanent or irreversible,” Mr. Bermudez wrote.

“The coming months should provide more firm indications whether these are indeed the ‘first steps’ in reducing the North Korean ballistic missile threat.”

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