North Korea building facility ‘big enough to store ballistic missiles’

North Korea is building a facility big enough to store its ballistic missiles, according to analysis of new satellite photos by a US think tank.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said construction of the unit, near Pyongyang International Airport, “is nearing completion” and “is almost certainly related to North Korea’s expanding ballistic missiles programme”.

“A high-bay building within the facility is large enough to accommodate an elevated Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile and, therefore, the entirety of North Korea’s known ballistic missile variants,” the CSIS report said.

“The facility has been constructed next to an underground facility whose likely size is also large enough to easily accommodate all known North Korean ballistic missiles and their associated launchers and support vehicles.”

It said the facility has been under construction since 2016 and includes a number of notable features including an “unusually large covered rail terminal” and buildings that are connected by a wide road network that could help move large trucks and ballistic missile launchers.

“Taken as a whole, these characteristics suggest that this facility is likely designed to support ballistic missile operations,” the report which was published on Tuesday said, calling it the Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility.

If construction continues at its current pace, and barring unforeseen delays, it could be complete and ready for operations sometime during late 2020 or early 2021, it added.

Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult because of tight controls on information within the secretive state.

When asked about the report at a regular briefing in Seoul on Wednesday, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it would be inappropriate to comment.

Nuclear diplomacy between North Korea and the US has largely stalled since the breakdown of the second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in February 2019.

After the failed Hanoi summit, North Korea has carried out several short-range missile and other weapons tests.

Mr Trump has downplayed them, saying they did not pose a direct threat to the US mainland.

The two countries have been in a face-off for months over the next steps in their negotiations, with North Korea refusing to disarm in return for a reprieve on its sanctions – dashing hopes of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

In January, Kim accused the US of dragging its feet in nuclear negotiations and said his country will continue developing nuclear programmes and introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future.

During a rare meeting of his ruling party, he also said that his country would not put its security at risk in exchange for economic benefits, and that it would never denuclearise unless the US ends what he called its “hostile policy”.

Pyongyang has also been increasingly frustrated by the nearby joint military drills held by the US and South Korea – which have recently been suspended due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

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