SEOUL: North Korea is operating at least 13 undeclared bases to hide mobile, nuclear-capable missiles, a new study asserted, as progress stalls on US President Donald Trump’s signature foreign policy initiative.
Trump has hailed his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as having opened the way to the North’s denuclearization, defusing tensions that less than a year ago brought the two countries to the brink of conflict.
Since the summit in Singapore, North Korea has forgone nuclear and missile tests, dismantled a missile test site and promised to also break up the country’s main nuclear complex if the US makes concessions.
But researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said they had located 13 missile operating bases that had not been declared by the government, and that there may be as many as 20.
“It’s not like these bases have been frozen,” Victor Cha, who leads CSIS’s North Korea program, told The New York Times, which first reported on the study and headlined its findings as suggesting a “great deception” by Pyongyang.
“Work is continuing,” said Cha, who was once in line to be the US ambassador to Seoul. “What everybody is worried about is that Trump is going to accept a bad deal – they give us a single test site and dismantle a few other things, and in return they get a peace agreement.”
But the South Korean government and analysts played down the report, saying that the facilities had been known about for years and Pyongyang had never offered to give them up.
The bases are scattered across the country in underground facilities tunneled in narrow mountain valleys, according to the CSIS researchers, and designed for mobile missile launchers to quickly exit and move to previously prepared launch sites.
Bases for strategic weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles — whose development is the subject of sanctions — are located deep inside the country.