WASHINGTON • One of 20 undeclared ballistic missile operating bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters, according to a report published on Monday by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
"The Sino-ri missile operating base and the Nodong missiles deployed at this location fit into North Korea's presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability," said the report co-authored by analyst Victor Cha.
The discovery of an undeclared missile headquarters comes three days after US President Donald Trump said he "looks forward" to a second summit to discuss denuclearisation with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February.
Mr Kim vowed to work towards denuclearisation at his first summit with Mr Trump on June 12 in Singapore last year, but there has been little concrete progress since.
CSIS, which last reported on the 20 missile bases in November, said the Sino-ri base has never been declared by North Korea and as a result, "does not appear to be the subject of denuclearisation negotiations".
The report said that missile operating bases would presumably be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any nuclear deal.
"The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don't disclose," said Dr Cha.
Satellite images of the base from Dec 27 last year show an entrance to an underground bunker, reinforced shelters and a headquarters, according to the report published by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
"It looks like they're playing a game. They're still going to have all this operational capability", even if they destroy their disclosed nuclear sites, he noted.
Located 212km north of the demilitarised zone, the Sino-ri complex is an 18-sq-km base that plays a key role in developing ballistic missiles capable of reaching South Korea, Japan, and even the US territory of Guam in the Western Pacific, the report said.
It houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1 medium-range ballistic missiles, the report added. Satellite images of the base from Dec 27 last year show an entrance to an underground bunker, reinforced shelters and a headquarters.
In South Korea, the Sino-ri facility has long been known as one of the bases housing the Nodong, also called the Rodong, a medium-range missile based on Soviet-era Scud technology that the North began deploying in the mid-1990s.
"It is a facility we've been monitoring with interest, in cooperation with the United States," Mr Kim Joon-rak, a spokesman for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news briefing yesterday .