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U.S. analysts locate secret North Korean missile sites

U.S. analysts locate secret North Korean missile sites

Researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington think tank, on Tuesday said that satellite imagery had found 13 missile bases undeclared by North Korea.

But South Korea's presidential Blue House said without an actual deal to violate, Pyongyang has broken no promises.

"Chairman Kim has repeatedly expressed his strong will to denuclearise", South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said after meeting the North Korean leader in September, adding that the North Korean leader wanted to "focus on economic development" as soon as possible.

The report singled out a base known as Sakkanmol, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of the demilitarized zone and one of the closest to South Korea.

The CSIS reports would appear to complicate efforts by Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hold North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to denuclearisation pledges he and his ministers have made in the months since Trump's summit with Kim in Singapore in June.

"In the 2018 New Year address, Kim Jong Un called for shifting to full-scale production and deployment of nuclear weapons and missiles", said Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the United States-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).

"We have known for some time that North Koreans are starting to deploy and even test missiles at the unit level", said Stephan Haggard, a professor of Korea-Pacific studies at the University of California at San Diego.

North Korea also took a step toward denuclearization when officials agreed to allow worldwide inspectors into its nuclear and missile sites - a step North Korea had repeatedly refused to take in the past.

Possible trouble on the Korean peninsula and concern overseas as new images reveal North Korea is continuing to develop nuclear missiles.

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The bases are arranged in three belts across North Korea, according to the report, with those for strategic missiles deep inside the country. The cancellation, which the U.S. ascribed to scheduling issues, followed threats from North Korean officials to resume nuclear and missile testing unless United States sanctions are lifted.

While the State Department did not explicitly say whether they viewed the bases as a violation of any agreements with the USA, they simply reiterated the promise North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made during his summit with President Donald Trump - to denuclearize and end Pyeongyang's missile programs.

While US sanctions on North Korea remain in place, enforcement by traditional trading partners China and Russian Federation has relaxed since the Singapore summit, US officials have acknowledged. "It has never signed any agreement, any negotiation that makes shutting down missile bases mandatory... the fact that such a missile base exists shows the necessity for negotiations to be achieved quickly".

The administration has said it is hopeful about eventually reaching an agreement with North Korea. Trump tweeted the day after the report's release.

"Missile operating bases are not launch facilities", the report said.

US officials have discussed possible clandestine enrichment sites for nuclear fuel, and in July, analysts at CNS used commercial satellite imagery to conclude that North Korea was "completing a major expansion of an important factory for producing solid rocket motors for ... nuclear-armed missiles".

The issue was also raised to the South Korean government.

The report was released less than a week after North Korea abruptly called off a new round of negotiations with Pompeo that had been set for Thursday in NY.