Satellite photos showed today that North Korea is rebuilding a missile base that it had begun to dismantle in 2018, a gesture that is difficult to interpret but could indicate an uproar to the US after the rejection of its demands at the Hánoi summit.
The images were obtained on March 2, three days after the summit ended without agreement between the US and North Korea, and show that at the base of Sohae (northwest of the country) they have begun to restore structures in the platform of launches and in the vertical test bench for missile engines.
Sohae is the main base of the so-called North Korean space program and has been the scene of four major launches (one of them failed). They took place in 2012 and 2016 and were carried out to try to put in orbit several satellites, something that was considered an excuse to test intercontinental ballistic missile technology (ICBM) and that the UN ended up sanctioning accordingly.
However, North Korea launched its first ICBM in 2017 without using a fixed launch platform like Sohae, raising questions about the utility of restoring this framework.
Whatever their goal, the CSIS analysts dared to point out that these works in Sohae could indicate that North Korea wants to be challenging – suggesting, for example, that it could start testing missiles again – after the US rejected in Hanoi their demands on sanctions.
Although Pyongyang and Washington give different versions, the disagreement at the summit revolved around the number of assets of the North Korean nuclear program to be dismantled and the volume of international sanctions on Pyongyang to be relieved as a counterpart.
With many still wondering if the dialogue will stagnate after Hanoi and awaiting what Washington now says (and with Seoul remaining silent despite the fact that South Korean intelligence reported Sohae’s movements in parliament on Tuesday), Pyongyang seems to have opted for being the first to take positions.