Images suggest North Korea ‘planning rocket launch’

North Korea may be preparing to launch a missile or rocket, satellite images of a facility near the capital Pyongyang suggest.

The pictures are of a site known as Sanumdong – a facility where North Korea has assembled some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellite-launching rockets, US broadcaster NPR reports.

Taken on 22 February, the images by Colorado-based company DigitalGlobe appear to show cranes, rail cars and vehicles.

“When you put all that together, that’s really what it looks like when the North Koreans are in the process of building a rocket,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told NPR.

He said it was impossible to know if North Korea was preparing a military missile or a space rocket.

It comes after reports earlier this week that North Korea was rebuilding facilities at a long-range rocket launch site that was recently dismantled as part of peace talks with the US.

Roofs, walls and doors have been put up again at the Tongchang-ri complex, also known as the Sohae satellite launching station.

An article from 38 North, a website specialising in North Korea studies, cited commercial satellite imagery as suggesting the rebuild started sometime between 16 February and 2 March.

Mr Lewis told Reuters the activity at both sites was “probably connected”.

Joel Wit at 38 North said of the Sanumdong images: “It could either be preparation for an eventual launch or not.”

The developments come after a high-stakes nuclear summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump broke down.

Mr Trump said on Friday he would be disappointed if Pyongyang resumed weapons testing and reiterated his belief in his “good” relationship with Mr Kim despite their failure to reach an agreement in Vietnam earlier this month.

“I would be surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding. But we’ll see what happens,” Mr Trump told reporters.

“I would be very disappointed if I saw testing.”

The UN imposed sanctions on North Korea after it launched satellites from Sohae, which were regarded as a disguised test of missile technology.

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