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Satellite images suggest that Kim Jong Un is building his nuclear arsenal, not dismantling it

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the joint press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at Paekhwawon State Guesthouse on September 19, 2018 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Satellite images suggest that Kim has been building his nuclear program rather than dismantling it. (Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool/Getty Images)

New analysis of satellite images suggest that, despite promises to the contrary, North Korea may be continuing to develop its nuclear missile program rather than dismantling it.

Here's what we know

The New York Times reported that North Korea is still working on its nuclear weapons program at more than a dozen hidden bases in North Korea. This is based on analysis by the Washington D.C. based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

One of the sites in question is the Sakkanmol Missile Operating Base, which sits about 85 miles from the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. CSIS reported that satellite imagery proved that “[a]s of November 2018, the [Sakkanmol] base is active and being reasonably well-maintained by North Korean standards.” There is also evidence of improvements and maintenance at other known North Korean missile sites.

CSIS said that while these were operating bases and not launch sites, they could be used as launch sites if necessary.

“President Trump has made clear that should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people,” a spokesman for the State Department told the New York Times.

What else?

While North Korea has stopped conducting missile launch tests, this is not the first report to suggest that North Korea hasn't given up on his nuclear aspirations. In June, the group 38 North reported that satellite images showed improvements to infrastructure at North Korean nuclear test sites.  In August, the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said it had reason to believe that North Korea was still developing nuclear weapons. In September, U.S. officials told NBC News that they had observed North Korean workers moving warheads.

North Korea has made a show out of de-commissioning both the Sohae satellite launch facility and the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site. however, reports by two separate groups of Chinese scientists from April suggest that the Punggye-ri site may have been decommissioned after it caused a nearby mountain to collapse.

What about the agreement Kim signed?

At the end of the summit, both President Donald Trump and Kim both signed an agreement, which read:

President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

After the summit concluded, Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that denuclearization talks were “really moving rapidly” and that Kim’s regime was “doing so much now.”

If Kim is backtracking on his commitment, it wouldn't be the first time for his family. The Kim family has agreed to denuclearize and then reneged on that promise on at least six separate occasions: in 1985, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, and 2012.

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