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North Korea begins dismantling key facilities at test site used to develop ICBMs, new report says
Satellite imagery shows North Korea is dismantling a key site used in its ICBM and space program. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea begins dismantling key facilities at test site used to develop ICBMs, new report says

North Korea has begun dismantling a key facility used for missile testing, an analysis of new satellite imagery reveals. The pictures provide evidence that the North Korean regime is committed to the denuclearization pact that its leader, Kim Jong Un, made last month during his meeting with President Donald Trump.

What are the details?

According to 38 North, a news website that provides analysis on North Korea, satellite imagery from July 20 and July 22 shows the regime has begun dismantling infrastructure at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the country's northeast.

The test site has been paramount to North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile and space programs. More from 38 North:

Most notably, these include the rail-mounted processing building—where space launch vehicles are prepared before moving them to the launch pad—and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea.

Images taken on July 20 showed the rail-mounted processing/transfer structure had been moved to the middle of the launch pad, where a crane had begun dismantling the structure. Images from July 22 showed "considerable progress" in the dismantling process, 38 North reported, noting one side of the structure had been completely removed.

However, the main processing building, gantry tower, and fuel tanks remained untouched, the images showed.

Meanwhile, images taken of the vertical engine test stand on July 20 showed a crane and construction vehicles working to tear down the site. According to 38 North, the site's rail-mounted environmental shelter had already been razed, while its fueling area is in the process of being destroyed. Additionally, work had begun to dismantle the test stand.

By July 22, significant progress had been made at the site. Images showed the test stand had been razed, leaving only its concrete base, which 38 North reported was in the demolition process. No additional progress was made on the site's fueling area.

Given the state of activity at both sites, 38 North estimated that dismantling work began sometime in the past two  weeks.

Is overall denuclearization progressing?

Despite Kim personally committing to a nuclear-free Korean Pennisula during his meeting with Trump, progress on such a feat has been slow, something President Trump has privately lamented, according to the New York Times.

In fact, just two weeks after the historic summit, satellite images showed the North was improving infrastructure at its Yongbyon nuclear plant “at a rapid pace." Yet as 38 North noted, these latest developments are an important "first step" to fulfilling Kim's promise.

Still, North Korea hasn't exactly played nice since the Singapore summit. After a follow-up meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month, North Korea lashed out at the U.S. over "regrettable" denuclearization talks.

Only time will tell how serious the Kim regime is to fulfilling its promises.

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