Images show N. Korea demolishing missile test stand, says US group

WASHINGTON • North Korea has been destroying a missile test stand in the wake of its leader's pledge to suspend testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, reputed United States monitoring group 38 North said on Wednesday, citing satellite images.

The stand was the only known facility for land-based, canister-launched ballistic missile ejection tests, which are critical for de-veloping medium-range solid-fuel ballistic missiles, the group said on its website.

Solid-fuel missiles can be fired at shorter notice and more discreetly than those powered by liquid fuel.

38 North, which monitors developments inside North Korea, said the stand could have been used to test larger canister-based ballistic missiles such as the intercontinental ballistic missiles the North unveiled in April last year.

The stand, called Iha-ri Driver Training and Test Facility, is near the north-western city of Kusong.

Work to demolish the stand began in the second week of May and was almost complete in satellite imagery from May 19, according to 38 North in a report picked up by the South's Yonhap news agency.

"It is unclear whether the destruction of the stand is an indication that the North is suspending this portion of its missile programme or that Pyongyang plans to erect other similar facilities in the future," it noted.

"A search of the Kusong area using the May 19 image reveals no new construction that can be directly tied to a new test stand."

Last month, North Korea demolished tunnels and other facilities at its only known nuclear test site, Punggye-ri.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump are set to meet in Singapore on Tuesday to discuss dismantlement of the North's weapons of mass destruction programme. Pyongyang, in return, is believed to be seeking security guarantees for its regime.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2018, with the headline 'Images show N. Korea demolishing missile test stand, says US group'. Print Edition | Subscribe