With a second U.S.-North Korea nuclear summit looming in February, researchers have discovered a secret ballistic missile base in North Korea — one of as many as 20 undisclosed missile sites in the country, according to the researchers’ new report.
The Kim regime has never disclosed the existence of the Sino-ri Missile Operating Base to the outside world. Ballistic missiles are the primary delivery mechanism for North Korean nuclear warheads.
The report from Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a defense think tank, was released Monday and comes after an announcement Friday that President Donald Trump “looks forward” to meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un next month “at a place to be announced at a later date.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don’t disclose,” said Victor Cha, one of the authors of the report. “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 facilities.
Cha says the base is “clearly a mainstay of their strategic missile force,” but there are no indications it is part of any discussions on denuclearization.
Situated about 130 miles north of the DMZ, Sino-ri Missile Operating Base houses the headquarters for the Korean People’s Army Strategic Rocket Forces missile brigade, a unit responsible for ballistic missiles. The base has been central to developing ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching South Korea, Japan, and even Guam, according to the report.
Beyond Parallel researchers estimate North Korea has 20 undisclosed sites where it continues to develop its ballistic missile program. Sino-ri is one of the oldest of those sites but is still operational today. Satellite photos dated Dec. 27, 2018, show an entrance to an underground bunker, hardened shelters, and a headquarters area, according to Beyond Parallel. The underground bunkers have rock and dirt berms in front that appear to protect them from artillery fire and airstrikes. The base is just under 7 square miles in size.
Sino-ri is supported by two nearby facilities, the Sobaek-su Academy and Myodu-san training area.
The Sobaek-su Academy was established in the late 1950s or 1960s as an artillery officer’s school and expanded in the following decades, becoming a ballistic missile school early this century, according to the report.
The school not only educates Strategic Rocket Forces officers, but it may also conduct research on “ballistic missile design and operation,” the report says. Satellite photos show buildings suspected to hold barracks and classrooms, vehicle storage facilities, and an entrance to an underground facility.