Newly revealed North Korean missile bases cast doubt on value of summit

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shakes hands with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo

Chung Sung-jun CHUNG SUNG-JUN APUS Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shakes hands with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, relying on satellite images, defector testimony, and interviews with defence and intelligence officials, has discovered 13 of an estimated 20 possible secret ballistic missile bases hidden in the mountains of North Korea.

Last week, North Korea called off a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in NY, and state media said on Monday the resumption of some small-scale military drills by South Korea and the United States violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Since the summit in Singapore, North Korea has forgone nuclear and missile tests, dismantled a missile test site and promised to also break up the country's main nuclear complex if the United States makes concessions.

In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent two tonnes of expensive pine mushrooms to Seoul as a gift for President Moon Jae-in, which were then shared among families living in South Korea that were separated during the war.

"We can not have another summit with North Korea - not with President Trump, not with the Secretary of State - unless and until the Kim regime takes concrete, tangible actions to halt and roll back its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs".

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But South Korea has defended the exercises.

North Korea is maintaining more than a dozen missile launch sites, according to new research, in a further sign that the summit diplomacy pursued by Kim Jong-un has not led to any significant disarmament. At a summit in Pyongyang in September, the two Korean agreed to disarm the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom, disarm 11 DMZ guard posts on a trial basis and conduct a joint excavation of soldiers killed during the war.

Cha had been in line for appointment as USA ambassador to South Korea, but was dropped because of disagreement with the Trump administration's approach.

"You know, North Korea said they needed to postpone it for whatever reason, Secretary Pompeo was ready to come", she explained.

The facilities identified in the new report are located in strategic locations that would put missiles in range of South Korea and Japan, according to the report.

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They are created to enable mobile missile launchers to quickly exit the underground facilities and move to previously prepared launch sites.

The imagery shows barely visible entrances to seven underground facilities at the Sakkanmol missile base - each protected from artillery fire and air strikes by 60-foot-high (18-meter) berms made from rock and dirt excavated from the site.

"Missile operating bases are not launch facilities", the report said. Pyongyang said however that it is still interested in pursuing talks and describes Trump as being a more amenable interlocutor than other USA officials.

The prospects for the joint project, however, remain unclear as it is apparently faced with opposition from the United States, which has voiced concerns over faster progress in inter-Korean relations than in denuclearization talks with North Korea.

Nort Korea "engages in an aggressive camouflage, concealment, and deception program with regard to its ballistic missile force", the CSIS report says.

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"I'm very pleased North Korea hasn't tested any more missiles, but while it hasn't tested them, it continues to produce them", Fitzpatrick said.

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