by WorldTribune Staff, March 8, 2019
U.S. President Donald Trump on March 6 said he would be “very, very disappointed” if reports that North Korea is rebuilding the Sohae Satellite Launching Station are true.
The State Dept. announced it would be “seeking clarification” from North Korean counterparts.
Two U.S. think tanks reported earlier this week that North Korea has rebuilt parts of the Sohae (Dongchang-ri) missile engine testing site. Commercial satellite imagery showed that the facility may have been restored to normal operational status following its partial dismantlement last year, the reports said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un committed to dismantling the facility during his summit with Trump in Singapore in June 2018 and again during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-In in September.
“The intent of the North Koreans in this matter is known only to them at this point,” a U.S. State Department official told reporters.
“So we’re watching in real time, as you are, developments at Sohae and we will definitely be seeking clarification on the purposes of that,” the State Dept. official told reporters.
The official added that while Sohae should be destroyed as part of North Korea’s denuclearization, it’s not a critical part of the regime’s nuclear infrastructure at this point because recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles were all carried out from mobile launchers outside the site.
“We don’t know why they’re taking these steps. We don’t know what they intend to do with it. But suffice it to say we’re watching closely and we expect them to abide by the commitments that they’ve made to the president of the United States.”
The U.S. still seeks North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearization before the end of Trump’s term in early 2021, the official said. That includes the removal of all nuclear warheads, fissile material and ICBMs, as well as a permanent freeze on other weapons of mass destruction programs.
Going forward, it also means “moving them on a course to reorient their economy towards civilian pursuits in order to make this a permanent direction for their country,” the official said.
Asked whether the U.S. is considering sanctions exemptions for the resumption of two key economic projects between the Koreas, the official said without elaborating, “No.”
Restarting the projects – an inter-Korean industrial complex in North Korea’s border city of Kaesong and a tour program to the North’s Mount Kumgang – “is central to South Korea’s vision to assist the regime’s denuclearization through economic incentives,” Yonhap said in a March 7 report.