US analysts ID 13 secret North Korean missile sites

South Korea

Thirteen undeclared North Korean missile operating bases were identified in a new report which undermines the Trump administration's claims that its outreach to Pyongyang is making progress in getting Kim Jong Un's regime to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

Are these bases evidence that North Korea is cheating on the agreement it reached in June, when US President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore?

In reports released by the Washington, D.C. -based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), maintenance and minor infrastructure improvements have been observed at some of the sites, according to researcher Joseph Bermudez, despite the ongoing negotiations to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

"These missile operating bases, which can be used for all classes of ballistic missile from short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) up to and including intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), would presumably have to be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal", the report states.

The two nations technically remain at war after the 1950-53 Korean War that sealed the division of the peninsula and ended with a ceasefire instead of a peace treaty.

"It's not like these bases have been frozen", Cha said.

North Korea dramatically improved its missile technology with provocative test launches past year.

"We made more progress in that four or five months (since the summit) than they have made in 70 years", he said, referring to previous U.S. leaders.

In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent two tonnes of expensive pine mushrooms to Seoul as a gift for President Moon Jae-in, which were then shared among families living in South Korea that were separated during the war.

"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 said.

There have been several recent signs that diplomatic efforts between the United States and North Korea were stalling. State-run media, in a statement two weeks ago, warned that North Korea was "seriously" considering a return to a guiding policy of building nuclear weapons and said that sanctions were "incompatible" with improving relations with Washington.

"What North Korea has offered is the beginning of a process that might - might - someday lead to an outcome like that". They noted that Kim had not agreed to halt either nuclear weapons or missile development in negotiations with Trump or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pyongyang may have wanted the missile sites to be seen, suggested David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, to keep the pressure on in negotiations.

"The fact that North Korea has continued to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the midst of high-level diplomacy with China, South Korea, and the US should not come as a surprise", said Abraham Denmark, the Asia program director at The Wilson Center.

However, he added, the report could also make the current stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang last "longer than expected".

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