July 23, 2013
Recently taken satellite photographs reveal that North Korea has stopped work on a complex intended for the launching of long-range ballistic missiles, according to a new expert analysis published on Tuesday.
Previous building efforts at the Musudan-ri missile complex to construct a new launch platform, launch control headquarters, and a facility for assembling rockets — all activities that would enable the firing of bigger missiles — have evidently ceased, concluded the website 38 North, which closely tracks developments in North Korea.
Construction at Musudan-ri, located in North Korea’s eastern region, was halted at the end of last year but it had been anticipated that work would resume this spring. However, by the end of May, building activity had not been restarted, according to 38 North, which is a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
“Exactly why construction has halted remains unclear. Initial speculation at the end of 2012 focused on the need for equipment and troops elsewhere to repair damage done by last summer’s typhoons and heavy rains,” reads the 38 North analysis by image specialist Nick Hansen. “That explanation now seems less plausible, given the amount of time that has passed since last year’s rains.”
Another possibility is that Pyongyang has determined that its facilities at another missile launching site at Dongchang-ri are all that is needed for its rocket program, according to Hansen.
“Or the stoppage may reflect a decision either to slow or even halt development of larger rockets,” he said. Should building efforts be reinvigorated, the effect of the delay still may be that the missile complex could not be fully constructed for another four years, 38 North said.
Joel Wit, the website’s editor, in an e-mail to the Associated Press said, “If Pyongyang ultimately abandons facilities to launch large rockets it only began building in 2011, that could have important implications for North Korea’s space launch program as well as the development of long-range missiles intended to deliver nuclear weapons.”