September 28, 2018 09:48
North Korea still has the capability to launch surprise attacks with intercontinental ballistic missiles using mobile launch pads despite dismantling a launch site in Tongchang-ri, according to experts.
President Moon Jae-in told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York earlier this week that the North's pledge to destroy a launch site at Tongchang-ri would mean that it will not be able to continue provocations with missiles and nuclear weapons, but many experts here disagree.
The Tongchang-ri site had been used only to launch long-range rockets that could be converted into ICBMs. In December 2012 and February 2016, North Korea launched massive rockets that were 30 m long and set up in a 67 m-tall gantry at the site.
But the more recent Hwasong-14 and 15 ICBMs, which alarmed the U.S. last year, were launched from a 16 to 18-wheel mobile launch vehicle. They were only about 20 m long, suggesting that the Tongchang-ri site had already outlived its usefulness.
Yang Wook of the Korea Defense and Security Forum said, "There seems to be no weakening yet of the regime's ability to launch ICBMs since that it has never promised to dismantle Hwasong-14 and 15 mobile launch pads."
The same is true for the nuclear test site in Punggye-ri that the North blew up earlier this year. The site had become dangerously unstable and was to all intents and purposes obsolete since the North has now more or less completed its development of nuclear warheads after six detonation tests, and experts believe it can continue tests with computer simulations in the future.
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