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24 Jul, 2018 01:00

N. Korea dismantling rocket test site as Trump rants over reports he loathes lack of progress

N. Korea dismantling rocket test site as Trump rants over reports he loathes lack of progress

New satellite imagery showed partial dismantlement of North Korea’s satellite launch facility. It comes as the US media reported that Donald Trump is somehow unhappy with the denuclearization progress of the Korean Peninsula.

Images of Sohae Satellite Launching Station, released by monitoring group 38 North on Monday, showed that Pyongyang has apparently begun dismantling work there. The satellite snapshots dated July 20 depict the presence of a crane and vehicles conducting deconstruction work on a building used to assemble space-launch vehicles, including a rail-mounted transfer structure. Other satellite pictures of Sohae Station show the dismantlement of a nearby rocket engine test stand previously used to run liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles by Pyongyang.

“Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea,” the monitoring group said in their report.

North Korea insists that its space exploration program is purely civilian, but many of the technologies needed to place a satellite in orbit are similar to those needed to deliver a nuclear warhead to another continent. Many observers say the space launch site is just part of Pyongyang’s infrastructure for developing ICBM’s, which saw a breakthrough last year.

Commenting on the report on Tuesday, a senior South Korean official said Pyongyang’s actions would “have a good effect on denuclearization.”

"It is a better sign than nothing, and I believe (the North) is moving step by step toward denuclearization," Nam Gwan-pyo, a senior director from the presidential National Security Office said, as cited by Yonhap news agency.

The 38 North publication of the new images emerged just hours after Donald Trump refuted what he called “fake news reports” that claimed that he was somehow frustrated over the lack of progress of the North Korean denuclearization agreed upon at the Singapore summit last month.

"A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months. Likewise, no Nuclear Tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy. But the Fake News is saying, without ever asking me (always anonymous sources), that I am angry because it is not going fast enough. Wrong, very happy!" Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

Over the weekend, a number of US news outlets ran a story claiming that less than six weeks after Trump meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, the US president was growing increasingly impatient with the pace of talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Basing their story on the report published in the Washington Post, the US media noted that Trump has been asking for daily updates on the status of negotiations, allegedly criticizing the lack of dismantlement of a missile testing facility by the North that the US leader hoped would be destroyed.

The June 12 summit produced little specific commitments put on paper, but it is presumed to have resulted in several verbal agreements. On his part, Trump shortly after the meeting paused some of the joint exercises the US holds with South Korea. Even before the face-to-face with Trump, Kim announced that he was shutting down some of his country’s key facilities related to nuclear and rocket research.

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