Researchers at Beyond Parallel have reported that North Korea is undertaking "rapid rebuilding" of its long-range rocket site at the Sohae Launch Facility.
The new claim comes just days after North Korea’s Kim Jong-un met with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam. The two parties touched on denuclearisation but they did not come to any agreement on the issue. North Korea reportedly demanded a complete end to US sanctions in the country and the US was apparently not prepared to consider this option.
The Sohae site had previously been used for attempted satellite launches between 2012 and 2016 and had been dormant since August 2018.
JUST IN: Photos taken just 2 days after the Trump-Kim Hanoi summit show rebuilding at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, North Korea's operational space launch facility. https://t.co/NgRXSZNhjo
More tonight on @NBCNightlyNews
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 5, 2019
North Korea defiantly restoring its Sohae missile launch site
Beyond Parallel drew on commercial satellite imagery photos of the site to scrutinise the activity there. Working from imagery acquired on 2 March 2019, Analysts Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha wrote that the photos “may indicate North Korean plans to demonstrate resolve in the face of US rejection of North Korea’s demands at the summit to lift five UN Security Council sanctions enacted in 2016-2017.”
The authors note the photos show activity at the vertical engine test stand as well as the launch pad’s rail-mounted rocket transfer structure.
Further, the environmental shelters on the umbilical tower have been opened to show the launch pad.
“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,” Victor Cha said.
“The activity on the ground shows us that they do have a (long-range ballistic missile) capability that is not just developmental, but in the prototype phase. They’ve already tested a few of these and it looks like they’re preparing the launch pad for another act,” Cha told NBC.
Beyond Parallel had also recently identified up to 19 previously unreported missile sites across North Korea.
North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri): Rebuilding commences on launch pad and engine test stand https://t.co/AoJY3kRyoF
— 38 North (@38NorthNK) March 6, 2019
South Korean media has also reported on the rebuilding efforts
The revelations coincide with South Korean authorities also alleging that North Korea is working to restore the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (or Tongchang-ri). Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, reported that politicians who had been briefed by the National Intelligence Service said that the rebuilding efforts had included replacing a door and a roof at the site.
Monitoring site 38 North corroborated the claim. Based on an assessment of commercial satellite imagery, the site believes the rebuilding began sometime between 16 February and 2 March 2019.
38 North, which previously reported that North Korea appeared to be dismantling a rocket launch site, said that two support cranes could be seen at the building, along with new walls and a roof. Building materials previously stored at the site are no longer visible.
After Trump and Kim met in Singapore last year, the US President said that North Korea had committed to destroying a major missile engine testing site, later identified as the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground.