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Undeclared missile bases up and running in N. Korea: Report

This article is more than 12 months old

SEOUL: A US think-tank said yesterday that it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 undeclared missile operating bases inside North Korea.

In reports released by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), researcher Joseph Bermudez said maintenance and minor infrastructure improvements have been observed at some of the sites.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump pledged to work towards denuclearisation at their landmark summit in Singapore, but the agreement was short on specifics and negotiations have made little headway.

Shortly after that summit, Mr Trump tweeted that "there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea".

North Korea declared its nuclear force "complete" and halted missile and nuclear bomb testing earlier this year, but US and South Korean negotiators have yet to elicit from Pyongyang a concrete declaration of the size or scope of the weapons programmes, or a promise to stop deploying its existing arsenal.

North Korea has said it has closed its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the Sohae missile engine test facility.

It also raised the possibility of shuttering more sites and allowing international inspections if Washington took "corresponding measures", of which there has so far been no sign.

Last week, North Korea called off a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, and state media said yesterday the resumption of small-scale military drills by South Korea and the US violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions.

The sites identified in the CSIS report are in remote, mountainous areas across North Korea and could be used to house ballistic missiles of various ranges.

None of the missile bases have been acknowledged by North Korea, and analysts said an accurate disclosure of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities would be a vital part of any denuclearisation deal.

Sakkanmol, the site closest to South Korea and its capital Seoul, appears to be "active and being reasonably well maintained", the report found.

"North Korea's decommissioning of the Sohae satellite launch facility, while gaining much media attention, obscures the military threat to US forces and South Korea from this and other undeclared ballistic missile bases," Mr Bermudez said. - REUTERS

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