Think-tank says it found secret North Korean missile headquarters

Researchers at a U.S.-based think-tank say they have discovered an undeclared missile headquarters in North Korea, days after U.S. President Donald Trump said he "looks forward" to another summit to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month.

Facility 'does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations' with U.S., report says

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a construction site in Yangdeok, in an undated photo released on Oct. 31. The Center for Strategic and International Studies says North Korea has 20 undeclared ballistic missile operating bases. (KCNA via Reuters)

Researchers at a Washington-based think-tank say they have discovered an undeclared missile headquarters in North Korea, days after U.S. President Donald Trump said he "looks forward" to another summit to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month.

The facility is one of 20 undeclared ballistic missile-operating bases in North Korea, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that was published Monday.

"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, which was co-authored by analyst Victor Cha.

Kim vowed to work toward denuclearization at his first summit with Trump in June, but there has since been little concrete progress.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 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 denuclearization negotiations."

The report said missile operating bases would presumably be subject to declaration, verification and dismantlement in any nuclear deal.

'Playing a game'

"The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don't disclose," said Cha.

"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.

Located 212 kilometres north of the demilitarized zone, the Sino-ri complex is an 18-square-kilometre base that plays a key role in developing ballistic missiles capable of reaching South Korea, Japan, and even the U.S. 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 show an entrance to an underground bunker, reinforced shelters and a headquarters, the report said.

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 co-operation with the United States," Kim Joon-rak, a spokesperson for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news briefing on Tuesday.

With files from CBC News