Dec 21, 2019 - World

Evidence of new work at North Korea site linked to long-range missiles

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the "Dropping and Target-striking Contest of KPA Special Operation Forces - 2017" at an undisclosed location in North Korea.

Kim Jong-un flanked by military officials, 2017. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea has begun fresh work at a factory involved in the development and production of intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, per satellite images shared by Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Why it matters: Lewis said on Saturday that Pyongyang is expanding work at the March 16 Factory in Pyongsong, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "watched preparations" for the 2017 test of the Hwasong-15 missile, which was theoretically capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Between the lines: "The site makes trucks to transport and launch ICBMs, so this is a long-term development," Lewis told Axios via email. "But what it shows is that North Korea is broadly expanding its missile capabilities." 

  • Lewis posted satellite images to Twitter that were taken by Planet Labs showing evidence of North Korea's developments.

The big picture: Trump administration officials have expressed concern about an escalation of tensions with North Korea in recent weeks, Axios' Jonathan Swan notes.

  • Last Saturday, North Korea announced it had carried out a launch test near the Chinese border, which it said "would help bolster the country's nuclear deterrent," the Washington Post reports.
  • Pyongyang has issued "vague threats" ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline that Kim set for President Trump to make concessions, including the lifting of sanctions, per Swan. Trump has shown no desire to do so.

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