Clear and present dangerA satellite image exposing missile bases across three belts in North Korea raised a stir amid a stalemate in negotiations over North Korean denuclearization. North Korea vowed to dismantle one launch site for long-range ballistic missiles that pose a threat to the United States but has continued to develop and run bases for shorter-range missiles that put South Korea and Japan at risk. The New York Times, citing a study by the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), focused on one unregistered missile base in North Hwanghae Province and accused North Korea of “great deception.”
Beyond Parallel, a CSIS group, said it has located 13 out of an estimated 20 missile operating bases kept secret by the Pyongyang regime. The Sakkanmol base in North Hwanghae Province currently houses a unit equipped with short-range ballistic missiles but could easily accommodate medium-range ballistic missiles, the report claimed.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to remove the threat of ICBMs by dismantling a missile engine and launch site, but the remaining threat from shorter-range missiles raises questions about genuineness in his assurance of removing military and weapons from the peninsula. South Korean and U.S. military authorities believe the North will target strategic locations occupied by Korean and U.S. troops and urban communities through scuds and short-range missiles. If it mounts weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical, and biological materials on those warheads, the devastation would be unimaginable. Of 1,000 ballistic missiles North Korea is presumed to own, most are short or medium-ranged.
Yet the Blue House continues to defend Pyongyang. Presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom claimed North Korea has never promised to shut down missile bases and that there is no accord or negotiation targeting missile bases. His explanation sounded as if Seoul was not concerned about North Korea’s missile threats. A U.S. State Department spokesperson made it clear that the North’s leader should follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of his ballistic missile program.
The locations CSIS exposed should be nothing new to intelligence authorities in Seoul and Washington. But the report suggests the mood in the United States and its media may be changing. Experts and the media may be growing impatient with the Trump administration and its lack of progress on the denuclearization front. Seoul also should join that chorus.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 14, Page 30