A Washington-based think tank says North Korea has boosted its ballistic missile program using a secret facility close to the country's capital Pyongyang. The development follows rumours surrounding Kim Jong Un's brief disappearance from the public eye. According to reports, the country is on way to completing the ballistic missile facility.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that the facility seems to have the capability to test-fire intercontinental ballistic missiles. Commercial satellite imagery produced by the think tank shows a building near the Pyongyang International Airport. The CSIS believes that the building has the capacity to store North Korea's largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) which can reach the US.
CSIS also reported that the construction of the site, with an "unusually large covered rail terminal building", began in 2016. The site is reportedly called the Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility and the building's "characteristics suggest that this facility is likely designed to support ballistic missile operations".
Can accommodate ICBMs
The previously undisclosed facility lies 17 km northwest of Pyongyang and is close to the Pyongyang International Airport, said Joseph Bermudez in his report for CSIS.
"A high-bay building within the facility is large enough to accommodate an elevated Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile and, therefore, the entirety of North Korea's known ballistic missile variants."
He believes that the facility is next to an underground facility that can accommodate all of North Korea's ballistic missiles, their associated launchers and support vehicles. Referring to the satellite images, there are suggestions that the buildings are interconnected for easier drive-through access. The building is also close to ballistic missile component manufacturing plants.
The CSIS Korea Chair also tweeted about the article and refers to the satellite images that showed the evidence of the construction of the facility. In the thread, the think tank said the facility has been undergoing constant modernisation and expansion for the past 10 years or so.
"Significantly, the building has a 37-meter-by-30-meter elevated center section (i.e., a high-bay) that is high enough to allow for a Hwasong-14 or Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) on a TEL to be easily elevated into the firing position to allow for testing of both, as well as the training of maintenance and ground crews," says the report.
According to Bermudez, the pace of construction of the facility shows that the building would be completed by late 2020 or early 2021.