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The U.S. government will seek North Korea to allow American inspectors to access a missile-launch site the regime began to restore despite its pledges, according to reports.
The move comes after 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea studies, published satellite images showing the regime restored a rocket launch site it had previously dismantled as part of its disarmament pledge last year.
The report claimed that the structures being restored include a rail-mounted transfer building, for which new walls have been erected and a new roof added. The engine support structure at the engine test stand is also being reassembled, while new roofs have been installed on the fuel and oxidizer buildings.
The apparent restoration occurred just a week after a nuclear summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump ended without an agreement.
A State Department official told the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. doesn’t know why there were works at the site and noted that the situation is being monitored.
The U.S. will pressure North Korea to give access to the site in an effort to assess whether the site is operational.
“We will definitely be seeking clarification,” the official said, according to the newspaper. “We will definitely be continuing to seek the admission of U.S. inspectors to the site to verify the permanent dismantlement and destruction.”
“The intent of the North Koreans in this matter is known only to them,” he added.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service director Suh Hoon gave a briefing to lawmakers on Tuesday, who said that the restoration is seen as the North’s preparation to restart long-range missile test-launches in the event that nuclear diplomacy cannot be reached, according to South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper.
Suh also said that the rebuilding was being done in such a way that the site could be blown up in a more dramatic fashion when U.S. inspectors visit in the event of the negotiations with the Trump administration going well in the future.
But experts say that the rebuilding of the launch site shows North Korea is unhappy that the U.S. remains committed to sanctions on the regime unless progress on denuclearization is made.
A senior State Department official told the Journal the U.S. views a satellite launch as a breach of Kim’s pledge during recent summit meetings not to conduct missile launches.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday said that North Korea could be subjected to even tougher sanctions if the country doesn’t fully give up its nuclear weapons program.
“If they’re not willing to do it, President Trump has been very clear they’re not getting relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them,” Bolton told the Fox Business Network. “And we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up, in fact.”
Trump abruptly ended the summit with Kim last week in Hanoi, Vietnam after refusing to comply with the North’s demands of lifting all sanctions.
Fox News’ Stephen Sorace and the Associated Press contributed to this report.