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U.S. intel detects new North Korean ICMB activity

July 31, 2018

Satellite imagery captured by U.S. intelligence shows North Korea has engaged in a flurry of new activity at a intercontinental ballistic missile factory during recent weeks, according to reports Tuesday citing American officials familiar with the intelligence.

A former CIA official specializing in the region said that if North Korea is building new ICBMs, it would not technically violate last month’s joint denuclearization statement between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, but would damage the spirit of ongoing talks with Pyongyang.

“That North Korea is building more ICBMs shouldn’t come as a surprise,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington and former CIA Korea deputy division chief.

U.S. spy satellite photos and infrared imaging have shown vehicles moving in and out of a North Korea facility that previously produced the country’s first ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, one senior U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity Tuesday.

The imagery reportedly does not show how advanced any new ICBM construction may be, but was collected during weeks subsequent to the June 12 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, where the two signed a statement in which North Korea broadly committed to the goal of giving up its nuclear weapons programs.

U.S. intelligence has for years warned that Pyongyang, which has previously threatened to attack America and its allies, was developing nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

The Washington Post first reported Monday night that U.S. officials had obtained new evidence, including the satellite photos, showing work underway in North Korea on at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs at a research facility in Sanumdong, on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

Citing anonymous officials familiar with the intelligence, The Post report said the new information does not suggest an expansion of North Korea’s capabilities, but shows that work on advanced weapons is continuing weeks after Mr. Trump declared on Twitter that Pyongyang was “no longer a Nuclear Threat.”

Mr. Klingner sought to downplay hype around the report Tuesday, asserting that the “North Korean activity is not per se a violation of the Singapore Communique, since no real deal was reached” between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim during their historic summit last month.

At the same time, however, the former CIA official suggested the new intelligence likely won’t bode well for the future of talks with the North Koreans.

In comments emailed to reporters by the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Klingner said Pyongyang’s actions “run counter to the spirit of the summit and are inconsistent with a government preparing to abandon its nuclear programs.”

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