North Korea: Launching a Missile, or Pushing Trump Buttons?

North Korea may be preparing to launch a missile or space rocket, as indicated by recent commercial satellite images of a site near Pyongyang. Alternatively, Kim Jong Un may be pushing some Trumpian buttons. After last month’s denuclearization talks in Vietnam between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un broke down, satellite images indicate new activity at the North Korea missile site known as Sanumdong.

In the past, North Korea assembled satellite launching rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles at the facility. According to NPR, Recent U.S. satellite images from DigitalGlobe now show vehicles parked nearby, rail cars in an adjacent rail yard, and cranes at the site.

After examining the images, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said, “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.”

According to Donald Trump’s account of his talks with Kim Jon Un, Kim offered to dismantle the Yongbyon complex, which is the main research and production facility for North Korea’s nuclear program. In exchange, however, according to Trump, Kim wanted the U.S. to lift all sanctions on North Korea. Trump refused.

“Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times,” said Trump.

North Korea’s foreign minister, however, stated that North Korea was only asking for a partial lifting of sanctions, not complete sanction relief. Kim had also offered to permanently stop nuclear testing as well as long-range rocket testing.

Christopher Dickey, world news editor at The Daily Beast, remarked, “I think we’re going to see a new round of testing of launch missiles, and also a testing of Donald Trump.”

Dickey stated that the Sanumdong site has been used for satellite launches, but never for intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches. “But that doesn’t matter,” Dickey said. “Kim Jong Un is obviously doing this to tweak Trump. To say, ‘Look. We can do this, and maybe we can go back to testing ICBMs as well’…Trump has kind of boxed himself into a corner.”

Meanwhile, Trump insists that he’d be “very disappointed” if North Korea were preparing to launch a missile.

Photos show North Korea rebuilding missile facility | ABC News [2019-03-06]

North Korea restores rocket launch site: Report | Fox News [2019-03-07]