November 14, 2018 13:12
A report raising suspicions that North Korea has at least 13 secret missile sites has alarmed the U.S. government and casts doubt on another U.S.-North Korea summit early next year.
The report by the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies singled out an "undeclared" short- and mid-range missile base in Sakkanmol, North Hwanghae Province where it identified the entrances to several underground tunnels and mobile launchers.
The U.S. State Department on Monday said "a much brighter future" lies ahead for North Korea if it abides by its denuclearization pledges and stressed that the scrapping of ballistic missiles is included in that pledge.
Until now, the U.S. has focused its efforts on scrapping North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles that could launch a nuclear attack on the continental U.S. But the Sakkanmol site is only for short to mid-range missiles and was the launch base in 2016 of eight Scud and Rodong missiles into the East Sea.
The report nonetheless highlights how difficult it would be to verify any inventory of North Korea's nuclear and missile sites it could provide in the course of negotiations.
Some blame U.S. President Donald Trump for not committing the North firmly enough to concrete disarmament steps. Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies said in an interview with the Washington Post, "Kim hasn't broken any promises." He added, "North Korea has never offered to abandon its nuclear weapons... What North Korea has offered is the beginning of a process that might… someday lead to an outcome like that."
The bases are located between just a stone's throw from the inter-Korean border to the rear. They include Sakkanmol, Kalgol and Kumchon-ri 50 to 90 km from the inter-Korean border, an area known as the "first belt," while the "second belt" between 90 and 170 km from the border has bases for Rodong missiles capable of striking Japan.
The "third belt" contains bases for missiles with the longest striking range and is close to the border with China, which could make it tough for the U.S. and South Korea to take them out with precision strikes.
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