North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station: No New Dismantlement ActivityOctober 5, 2018
Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (“Tongchang-ri”), North Korea’s main space launch facility, indicates that despite dismantlement pledges formalized in the recent Pyongyang Declaration, no additional activity has been observed at either the vertical engine test stand or the launch pad since August 3.
Based on available information, the lack of activity could be for a number of reasons—for example, North Korea may be waiting to arrange a visit of international observers or for the results of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming visit—and should not be interpreted as meaning that Pyongyang will not follow through on its pledge.
While the presence of expert observers will be important, dismantlement of the Sohae facility will also be observable by commercial satellites. The most important, and most easily verified, action at the vertical engine test stand would be to demolish its foundation, a substantial piece of structural engineering that would be difficult to reconstitute and easy to observe by satellite.