The North Korean government has destroyed a “key missile test stand” ahead of dictator Kim Jong Un's summit next week with President Donald Trump.
What nuclear test site?
A report released on Wednesday by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., an expert on North Korean weapons, said that a test site near the city of Kusong had been shut down. The New York Times reported that satellite imagery appears to confirm this.
According to Bermudez, this was the country's only site for land-based, canister-launched ballistic missile ejection tests. Those tests are essential for developing long-range missiles, and the Pukguksong-2 solid propellant.
This site may also have been used to test “cold launch” missiles. In a cold launch, the missile's rocket engine ignites only after it is already airborne. This prevents the missile silo from being destroyed by the launch, which is what happens during a hot launch. A cold launch system also means that the North Koreans would have needed less time to prepare for a launch.
What about the summit?
On June 1, a week after he cancelled it in response to a "recent statement" by North Korea, Trump announced that his summit with Kim Jong Un would still take place on Tuesday in Singapore.
After meeting with North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chul, Trump told reporters that he thought it was crucial to have the summit.
“I think we would be making a big mistake if we didn’t have it,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly said that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was a nonnegotiable part of any agreement with the Hermit Kingdom.
Is this the first site that the North Koreans have shut down?
The New York Times says that the significance of this specific closure is unclear. However, the Kusong test site is just the latest nuclear test site that the North Korean regime has scrapped in the past few months.
In April, North Korea announced that it would be sutting down its Punggye-ri nuclear testing facility. However, at the time, two separate groups of Chinese scientists speculated that this announcement may also have been related to North Korean nuclear tests inadvertently collapsing the Mount Mantap testing site, potentially causing North Korean scientists to lose control of the radioactive fallout caused by the tests.