North Korea may be preparing for a missile or space launch, U.S. news outlet NPR has reported, based on satellite image analysis of a key facility near Pyongyang.
NPR said the images of Sanumdong, one of the facilities Pyongyang has used to produce intercontinental ballistic missiles, were taken days before U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Hanoi for their high-stakes summit, which ended in failure.
The photos by the firm DigitalGlobe show the presence of cars and trucks at the site on February 22, said NPR, which has exclusive access to the imagery.
It added that rail cars and cranes can also be seen at a yard. “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, a researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, was quoted as saying by NPR on Friday.
The Sanumdong analysis comes days after the specialised website 38 North and the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Pyongyang may have resumed operations at its long-range rocket launch site at Sohae, based on their study of satellite imagery from March 6.
The development is likely to further compound Washington’s frustration over the lack of progress in its bid to get the North to give up its atomic arsenal, especially after the February 27-28 summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim collapsed without a joint statement.
Mr. Trump said on Friday that his relationship with Mr. Kim “remains good”, despite the setback in Hanoi.
U.S. officials have said Washington believes the “final, fully verified denuclearisation” of North Korea is still possible by the end of Mr. Trump’s first term.