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As Summit Nears, Images Show NK Already Destroying Missile Facility

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Satellite imagery shows North Korea razed some facilities used for testing ballistic missiles last month after declaring it was suspending nuclear explosions and missile launches, a U.S. website reported Wednesday.

A stand used for missile ejection tests was demolished near Kusong in the country’s northwest, according to North Korea expert Joseph Bermudez. Ejection tests are to evaluate the initial launch of a missile from a canister and fire up its first-stage engine rather than a full-blown launch.

His analysis was published by 38 North, a Washington-based website, which tracks developments in the isolated nation’s weapons programs.

In April, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced he was suspending ballistic missile and nuclear testing, paving the way for negotiations on its nuclear weapons program with the United States. This will culminate in a historic summit next week in Singapore with President Donald Trump.

Last month, in a sign of good will, North Korea also demolished tunnels and buildings at its nuclear test site in the country’s remote northeast and provided rare access to foreign journalists.

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That action is not irreversible, and many more significant measures would be needed to meet Trump’s demand for denuclearization.

Do you think North Korea is going to suspend its missile program?

According to Wednesday’s analysis, the Iha-ri site north of the city of Kusong was used for developing a medium-range solid fuel missile, which can be fired faster and more secretly than missiles using liquid fuel. It could also have been used for testing mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, which were displayed by Pyongyang during a parade last year.

Work to raze the missile test stand and nearby support structures began in the second week of May and appeared nearly complete in a May 19 image, the website said.

However, it’s unclear if this shows North Korea is suspending this aspect of its missile program or intends to erect similar facilities.

Joel Wit, a former State Department official and 38 North editor, said it was a small step intended to signal North Korea’s seriousness about halting its long-range missile programs.

However, whether there are bigger steps to come remains unclear, he said.

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