North Korea is expanding an important missile base that would be one of the most likely sites for deploying intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, two experts on the North’s missile programs said Thursday, citing new research based on satellite imagery.
The activities at the Yeongjeo-dong missile base near North Korea’s border with China and the expansion of a new suspected missile facility seven miles away are the latest indications that North Korea is continuing to improve its missile capabilities, said Jeffrey Lewis and David Schmerler of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California.
“The base is located in the interior of North Korea, backed up against the Chinese border,” they said. “It is this location that leads us to believe that the general area is a strong candidate for the deployment of future missiles that can strike the United States.” Military planners in Seoul and Washington have long suspected that North Korea would deploy its intercontinental ballistic missiles as close to China as possible to reduce the likelihood of pre-emptive strikes from the United States.
Using satellite imagery, they located tunnels in Yeongjeo-dong that might be used for storing missiles and the construction of a new headquarters, as well as a pair of drive-through shelters in Hoejung-ni suitable for large ballistic missiles and “an extremely large underground facility” under construction further up a narrow valley.
A series of United Nations resolutions require North Korea to give up its ballistic missile program. But the country has never signed any agreement to curtail or disclose its missile capabilities. Following his June summit meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, Mr. Trump claimed that there was “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
[New York Times]