No sign of imminent North Korea missile launch: Seoul

Above, a satellite image by DigitalGlobe of North Korea’s Sohae facility, which has been used to launch satellites into space since 2011. (DigitalGlobe via AP)
Updated 18 March 2019
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No sign of imminent North Korea missile launch: Seoul

  • ‘Tongchang-ri is a launch site but we don’t see any activity being carried out for a missile launch’
  • North Korea has used Sohae to launch satellites into space since 2011

SEOUL: It is too soon to tell if recent activity at some of North Korea’s rocket facilities is preparation for a missile launch, South Korea’s defense minister told a parliamentary hearing on Monday. Early in March, several American think-tanks and South Korean officials reported that satellite imagery showed possible preparations for a launch from the Sohae rocket launch site at Tongchang-ri, North Korea, which has been used in the past to launch satellites but not intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
“It’s hasty to call it missile-related activity,” Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told a parliamentary defense committee.
“Tongchang-ri is a launch site but we don’t see any activity being carried out for a missile launch.”
When asked if he could confirm whether Sohae was functionally restored, Jeong said it was inappropriate for intelligence authorities to comment on every media report one way or the other.
He also said there were signs of continued nuclear activity in North Korea, without elaborating.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a separate parliamentary panel that it was possible that the recent developments at the missile site were to bolster North Korea’s leverage in negotiations.
“But given North Korea’s continued work, thorough analysis is needed to find out its exact intentions,” Cho said.
On Friday, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told foreign diplomats and journalists in Pyongyang that leader Kim Jong Un was considering suspending talks with the United States and may rethink a freeze on missile and nuclear tests unless the United States made concessions.
The activity at Sohae appeared to begin shortly before US President Trump met Kim at a summit in Hanoi late last month.
The summit broke down over differences about US demands for North Korea to denuclearize and its demand for dramatic relief from international sanctions imposed for its nuclear and missile tests, which it pursued for years in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
Trump said after his first summit with Kim in Singapore last June that Kim had promised to dismantle the Sohae test site, a pledge the North Korean leader reiterated and expanded on at a summit with Moon in September.
North Korea has used Sohae to launch satellites into space since 2011, and the United States says its work there has helped develop missile technology.
A satellite launch in April 2012 killed off an Obama administration deal for a freeze in North Korean nuclear and missile testing reached weeks earlier.
On Wednesday, 38 North, a group that monitors North Korea, reported that there had been no new activity at Sohae since March 8.
On Friday, the group reported that satellite imagery showed no activity at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor complex, or at dismantled facilities at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.


Former US VP Biden announces 2020 run for White House

Updated 57 min 51 sec ago
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Former US VP Biden announces 2020 run for White House

  • Biden joins an already crowded list of presidential candidates running from the Democratic party
  • He served eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president

WASHINGTON: Former US Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday he is entering the 2020 White House race, joining an already crowded list of candidates running on the Democratic Party platform.
In a tweet accompanied by a three-and-a-half minute video, Biden said he couldn’t stand idly by while US President Donald Trump “fundamentally altered the character of this nation.”
“The core values of this nation... our standing in the world... our very democracy... everything that has made America — America — is at stake,” he wrote in the post.
“That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.”
Even before his official announcement, Biden, who served eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president, led most surveys of Democratic voters.
The RealClearPolitics poll aggregate puts him as favorite with 29.3 percent support, followed by independent Senator Bernie Sanders at 23 percent.