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Commercial satellites reveal the North Korean missile base: NPR

North Korean rockets, as shown here, drilling near Pyongyang on March 7, 2017, launch from mobile trucks. KCNA via Reuters…

North Korean rockets, as shown here, drilling near Pyongyang on March 7, 2017, launch from mobile trucks.

KCNA via Reuters

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KCNA via Reuters

North Korean rockets, as shown here, drilling near Pyongyang on March 7, 2017, launched from mobile trucks.

KCNA via Reuters

Commercial satellite imagery has shown the location and layout of a previously undeclared North Korean missile base, including deep subways designed to accommodate the weapons.

The base, known as the Sakkanmol missile base, is located approximately 85 miles northwest of South Korea’s capital Seoul (38.584698 ° 126.107945 °). According to researchers who discovered the base, it consists of a series of superstructure buildings, including barracks and vehicle maintenance, as well as a subway that keeps trucks carrying the missiles. This particular facility probably holds shorter North Korean missiles that can be used to beat South Korea in the event of war.

Sakkanmol Missile Operations Base in North Korea.

CSIS / Beyond Parallel / DigitalGlobe 2018

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CSIS / Beyond Parallel / DigitalGlobe 2018

Sakkanmol missile operation base in North Korea.

CSIS / In addition to Parallel / DigitalGlobe 2018

Intelligence agencies believe there are close to similar bases scattered throughout the country. Some, like the base of Sakkanmol, hold shorter missiles, while others house missiles that can go further away, including targets in Japan and continental United States. It is unclear whether the missiles in Sakkanmol would be armed with nuclear weapons or conventional warheads, but at least some of the bases would be nuclear, says Joseph Bermudez, senior executive at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a writer of the new report.

Sakkanmol and other similar bases form the backbone of North Korea’s nuclear defense system. “This is their primary way of strategically deterring the US, South Korean and their allies,” said Bermudez. While other countries use bombs and submarines to trap their nuclear weapons, North Korea believes that they are almost entirely dependent on trucks. In the event of war, lorries would likely be driven and armed in their underground bunkers at these bases. They would then drive to one of a number of preselected places where they could launch their missiles. The place just needs to be flat and even, says Bermudez. “A highway would be an excellent choice,” he says.

Sakkanmol missile bases have an underground missile support facility.

CSIS / Beyond Parallel / DigitalGlobe 2018

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CSIS / Beyond Parallel / DigitalGlobe 2018

Sakkanmol missile bases have an underground missile support facility.

CSIS / Beyond Parallel / DigitalGlobe 2018

Researchers who are not connected to the latest findings say that the discovery of the base is significant. “I think it’s the first time we’ve seen a business base on this scale,” said Catherine Dill, a senior research assistant at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Washington, DC. She says the base has some distinct North Korean functions, including greenhouses, where soldiers grow their own food. Given the remote base of the base and North Korea’s limited infrastructure, “it’s easier to have as much space on the plant as possible,” she says.

Dill says she was not surprised by the existence of the bass. At a summit in Singapore earlier this year, North Korea promised to work against nuclear power, but the vague law was only applied at a certain point in the distant future, “said Dill. Meanwhile, North Korea will continue to strengthen the existing nuclear deterrence. “North Korea continues to introduce infrastructure that supports its status as a nuclear weapon state,” she says.

Bermudez agrees that he is impressed by the effort that has taken place in tunnels in the nearby mountains. The tunnels are designed to make the missiles more survivable in war. “Sakkanmol is one of a number of strategic missile bases that have spread around the nation,” he says. Together, he says, they represent an effective deterrent.

Bermudez says he has identified as many as a dozen other bases and will publish other places in the future.

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