North Korea 'rebuilding long-range rocket launch site it had dismantled last year'

A North Korean long-range rocket is launched into the air at the Sohae rocket launch site in February 2016. (Reuters/File picture)

North Korea is reportedly restoring facilities at the long-range rocket launch site it had dismantled last year.

The development came after a high-stakes nuclear summit last week between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US president Donald Trump ended without any agreement.

South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported on Wednesday that the country’s spy service gave such an assessment on the North’s Tongchang-ri launch site to politicians in a private briefing on Tuesday.

An article from 38 North, a website specialising in North Korea studies, cited commercial satellite imagery as indicating that efforts to rebuild some structures at the site started sometime between February 16 and March 2.

The Sohae Satellite Launching Station launch pad features what researchers describe as the partially rebuilt rail-mounted rocket transfer structure, in a commercial satellite image taken over Tongchang-ri. (Reuters)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam on Feb 28 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Dismantling parts of its long-range rocket launch facility in the north-west was among several steps the North took last year when it entered talks with the United States and South Korea.

The site is where North Korea carried out satellite launches in recent years, inviting rounds of sanctions from the UN that saw it as a disguised test of missile technology.

JoongAng Ilbo cited unidentified politicians who attended the briefing as saying that National Intelligence Service director Suh Hoon told them that the structures being restored at the launch site include roofs and doors of buildings.

Map showing the Sohae rocket test site in North Korea. (AFP Photo/)

 

Mr Suh was quoted as saying that the move is seen as a preparation to restart long-range missile test-launches in the event that nuclear diplomacy completely collapses or to add some structures to blow up the launch site more dramatically in a show of denuclearisation commitment when US inspectors visit if negotiations with Washington go well.

The offices of South Korean politicians who took part in Tuesday’s briefing could not immediately confirm the newspaper report.

The 38 North report said the rail-mounted transfer building is being reassembled at the launch site.

It said two support cranes can be seen at the building, and walls have been erected and a new roof added.

At the engine test stand, the website said it appears that the engine support structure is being reassembled.

It said new roofs have been installed on the fuel and oxidiser buildings.