US think tank report detects ‘secret’ N Korean missile base

Washington: Despite North Korea repeatedly committing to achieve denuclearisation, a report by a US-based think tank said that there is an ‘undeclared’ missile base in the communist country, which is yet to be acknowledged by Pyongyang.

The Sino-ri missile operating base, situated 212 km north of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the military demarcation line diving the Korean Peninsula, is one of as many as 20 undisclosed sites in North Korea, said a report from Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), quoting Yonhap News Agency.

The report, published on Monday, claimed that the base houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1 medium-range ballistic missiles.

The unit could have also played a key role in developing the Pukkuksong-2 ballistic missile that was first tested in February 2017.

The base and the Nodong missiles deployed in the missile base “fit into North Korea’s presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability against targets located both throughout the Korean Peninsula and in most of Japan,” the report added.

It noted that the Sino-ri base was never declared by the North Korean government, adding that “it also does not appear to be the subject of denuclearisation negotiations between the US and North Korea.”

“While diplomacy is critical and should be the primary way to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem, any future agreement must take account of all of the operational missile base facilities that are a threat to US and South Korean security,” the report further said.

A military official in South Korea said that the military base is among the few nuclear development sites Seoul and Washington have been monitoring jointly for quite some time.

The report by the US think tank comes after senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol paid a visit to Washington DC last week, where he held separate meetings with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and US President Donald Trump on the progress of Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.

A second meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is scheduled to take place at the end of February.

Several reports had previously surfaced that North Korea, despite agreeing to work towards achieving “full denuclearisation”, was continuing to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong-un has repeatedly stated that his government is committed to fulfilling its promise of achieving denuclearisation and said the same even during his maiden meeting with Trump in Singapore last June.

Progress after the first summit has been slow as North Korea has been eyeing sanctions relief. However, the US has insisted that the sanctions would remain intact till the communist country took proper steps for ensuring “fully complete and verifiable denuclearisation.”