Activity at North Korean rocket site fuels speculation of new missile test

by WorldTribune Staff, October 10, 2016

Recent satellite images from a North Korean satellite launch facility showed the Kim Jong-Un regime may be preparing for a new long-range missile test.

The images, released on Oct. 8 by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, showed increased activity at North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station.

Satellite image released on October 8, 2016 shows the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North Korea. /AFP
Satellite image released on October 8 shows the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North Korea. /AFP

Analysts speculated that Pyongyang was preparing for a missile launch, or even another nuclear test, as part of the Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. Past nuclear tests and missile launches have often coincided with key political dates. Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test, conducted last month, took place on the anniversary of North Korea’s founding as a state.

Last month, North Korea successfully tested a new, high-powered rocket engine, a move South Korea said was designed by Kim’s regime to showcase its progress towards being able to target the east coast of the United States.

In August, the North carried out its most successful test to date of a submarine-launched ballistic missile that would allow deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula.

Satellite images from Oct. 1 showed crates on the launch pad next to the Sohae site’s gantry tower, vehicles near the fuel and oxidizer buildings, and work continuing on the facility’s vertical engine test stand. Two days earlier, the Johns Hopkins institute posted images of the site that showed activity at all three of its tunnel complexes.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has progressed exponentially since its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006 – an underground detonation which was widely seen as a failure.

Since taking power in late 2011, Kim Jong-Un has overseen three nuclear tests, two of them taking place this year. Each test shown a significant level of progression. Pyongyang also claims it has mastered the miniaturization technique to fit a nuclear warhead on the tip of a missile.