U.S. spy agencies are seeing signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, officials familiar with the intelligence told The Washington Post on Monday.
Newly obtained evidence, including satellite photos taken in recent weeks, indicates that work is underway on at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs at a large research facility in Sanumdong, located on the outskirts of Pyongyang, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The findings are the latest to show ongoing activity inside North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities at a time when the country’s leaders are engaged in arms talks with the United States.
The new intelligence does not suggest an expansion of North Korea’s capabilities but shows that work on advanced weapons is continuing weeks after President Donald Trump declared in a Twitter posting that Pyongyang was “no longer a Nuclear Threat.”
During a historic summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last month, the two leaders signed an agreement including a commitment to achieve total denuclearization of Korea, with promises to pursue “vigorous negotiations” to that end.
Subsequent reports suggested, however, that despite its commitment to denuclearize, North Korea has continued to expand infrastructure at nuclear and missile sites.
Monday’s reports about new missile construction come after recent revelations about a suspected uranium enrichment facility, called Kangson, that North Korea is operating in secret.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged during Senate testimony last week that North Korean factories “continue to produce fissile material” used in making nuclear weapons. He declined to say whether Pyongyang is building new missiles.
While Trump and Kim agreed to “work toward” the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula last month, North Korea has made few tangible moves signaling an intention to disarm, according to The Washington Post.
Instead, the report said, senior North Korean officials have discussed their intention to deceive Washington about the number of nuclear warheads and missiles they have, as well as the types and numbers of facilities, and to rebuff international inspectors, according to intelligence gathered by U.S. agencies. Their strategy includes potentially asserting that they have fully denuclearized by declaring and disposing of 20 warheads while retaining dozens more.
“We see them going to work, just as before,” one U.S. official told the newspaper. The exception, the officials said, is the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on North Korea’s west coast, where workers can be observed dismantling an engine test stand, honoring a promise made to Trump at the summit.
Many analysts and independent experts, however, see that dismantling as largely symbolic, since North Korea has now successfully launched ICBMs that use the kind of liquid-fueled engines tested at Sohae. Moreover, the test stand could easily be rebuilt within months.
Several U.S. officials and private analysts told The Post the continued activity inside North Korea’s weapons complex is not surprising, given that Kim made no public promise at the summit to halt work at the scores of nuclear and missiles facilities scattered around the country.
Pompeo, at the Senate hearing last week, sought to assure lawmakers that the disarmament talks with North Korea remained on track and that the effort to dismantle the country’s nuclear arsenal was just getting underway.
He brushed aside suggestions that the administration had been deceived by Kim, saying, “We have not been taken for a ride.”