North Korea Expanded Missile Facility During Talks With Trump, Analysts Say

Satellite images revealed Monday show that North Korea developed a factory producing ballistic missiles that could hit the U.S. around the time of the Trump-Kim meeting

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A North Korea missile production facility in the city of Hamhung seen from a satellite image taken on June 29, 2018.
The North Korean missile in a satellite image taken on June 29, 2018.Credit: \ HANDOUT/ REUTERS

North Korea continued to develop a rocket-engine facility prior to the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, Bloomberg reported Monday, based on newly revealed satellite images examined by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

The factory shown in the images produces wound-filament airframes and nozzles for engines used in solid-fuel missiles, the report by the Middlebury Institute said.

>> North Korea's Kim is the big winner of Singapore summit, but Trump comes up short | Analysis

A North Korean missile production facility in the city of Hamhung is seen from a satellite image taken on April 1, 2018.
A North Korea missile production facility in the city of Hamhung seen from a satellite image taken on June 29, 2018.

Korean solid-fuel missiles pose a serious threat, especially because they can be kept hidden while fueled, which makes it more difficult to target them in a counter-attack and also makes it easier to deploy them.

Construction apparently started in April this year, and continued in May and June.

The Middlebury report, penned by David Schmerler and Jeffrey Lewis, also revealed that the North Korean factory in question also manufactures other missile components, including re-entry vehicles for warheads that could be used on missiles capable of reaching the United States.

"The expansion suggests that, despite hopes for denuclearization, Kim Jong Un is committed to increasing North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear-armed missiles," the report's authors write.

This report, which analyzed images from before the June 12 Singapore summit, seriously casts doubt on statements made by the American president in which he boasted of putting a halt, at least temporarily, to North Korea's nuclearization.

Trump stated a day after the meeting that "there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea" and that "everybody can now feel much safer."

Kim Jung Un may have agreed in the meeting to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korea Peninsula," but the expansion evident in the construction of this factory suggests the opposite.

Nonetheless, it appears that the U.S. president himself expressed doubt concerning the success of the agreement reached with the North Korean leader. On Sunday, Trump said in an interview with Fox News that he "made a deal with him [Kim Jong Un], I shook hands with him, I really believe he means it. Now, is it possible? Have I been in deals, have you been in things where people didn't work out? It's possible."

The expansion of the factory, which was initially reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the latest in a series of revelations that undercut Trump's claim that the North Korean threat has been removed.

NBC reported on Sunday that U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has stepped up its uranium enrichment in several hidden sites over recent months. According to the report, intelligence agencies assess that Kim Jong Un may be attempting to hide those sites in order to gain more benefits in his nuclear talks with Trump administration.