Imagery

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Sohae Launch Facility Update: Quiet Since Early March

While recent activity at the Sohae Launch facility appears to have returned it to operational status after DPRK dismantlement measures earlier in the summer, there has been no activity of significance at the vertical engine test stand or launch pad since early March.

Sohae Launch Facility Update—Work Continues; Concealment of Launch Pad and Engine Test Stand

Commercial satellite imagery acquired on both March 6 and March 8, 2019, shows that North Korea has continued preparations on the launch pad and the vertical engine test stand at the Sohae Launch Facility. Based on past practices, these activities could be consistent with preparations for the delivery of a rocket to the launch pad or engine to the test stand; or, they could be North Korean coercive bargaining tactics after the failed Hanoi summit.

Sohae Launch Facility Update: North Korean “Snapback” After Hanoi

Commercial satellite imagery acquired March 6, 2019—four days after the previous image—shows that North Korea has essentially completed the rebuilding of both the rail-mounted transfer transfer/processing structure on the launch pad and the vertical engine at the Sohae Launch Facility.

After Hanoi Summit: Rebuilding of Sohae Launch Facility

Commercial satellite imagery acquired on March 2, 2019, shows that North Korea is pursuing a rapid rebuilding of Sohae (Tongchang-ri) Launch Facility at both the vertical engine test stand and the launch pad’s rail-mounted rocket transfer structure.

Undeclared North Korea: The Sangnam-ni Missile Operating Base

Located 250 kilometers north of the DMZ, Sangnam-ni missile operating base is an operational missile base that houses a battalion- or regiment-sized unit equipped with Hwasong-10 (Musudan) intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM). Multiple flight failures of the Musudan missile in 2016 could have also led the KPA Strategic Force to abandon the system and replace it with the more successful Hwasong-12 IRBM.

Undeclared North Korea: The Sino-ri Missile Operating Base and Strategic Force Facilities

Located 212 kilometers north of the DMZ, Sino-ri is an operational missile base that houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1/-2 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM). It is one of the oldest of approximately 20 undeclared missile operating bases and is reported to serve as the headquarters of the Strategic Rocket Forces Nodong missile brigade. It may have also played a role in development of the newest generation Pukkuksong-2 (KN-15) ballistic missile first tested or unveiled by North Korea on February 12, 2017.

Making Solid Tracks: North Korea’s Railway Connections with China and Russia

Should inter-Korean cooperation result in the re-connection of the railways in North and South Korea, the rail networks of the Korean peninsula could then be integrated into a rail network spanning the Eurasian continent through China and Russia. If actualized, this would mark a significant diplomatic and geopolitical accomplishment for the Korean peninsula. Nonetheless, a long and significant modernization process will need to take place to fully integrate the systems in a commercially viable way.

Making Solid Tracks: North and South Korean Railway Cooperation

North and South Korea are moving forward with inter-Korean railway cooperation as a key engine for advancing inter-Korean reconciliation and building the infrastructure for eventual unification. Once connected, however, a significant modernization and harmonization process will need to take place to fully integrate the systems in a commercially viable way.

Undeclared North Korea: The Sakkanmol Missile Operating Base

Sakkanmol is an undeclared North Korean operational missile base for short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and is one of approximately 20 undeclared missile sites and one of the closest to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and Seoul, giving it the shortest flight time. Sakkanmol currently houses a unit equipped with SRBMs but could easily accommodate more capable medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs).

Undeclared North Korea: Missile Operating Bases Revealed

New research undertaken by Beyond Parallel has located 13 of an estimated 20 North Korean missile operating bases that are undeclared by the government. These missile operating bases, which can be used for all classes of ballistic missile from short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) up to and including intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), would presumably have to be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal.

Yongbyon Declassified Part II: Progress on Building IRT-2000 Reactor

North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons program is nearly six decades old. While archival documents have previously provided some evidence of North Korea’s intent to build weapons of mass destruction at an early stage in the Cold War, newly declassified satellite imagery from the Central Intelligence Agency gives us a more precise picture of how and exactly when North Korea started developing the fundamental components of its nuclear weapons program.

North Korean Railways and Reconnections? Wonsan Railway Rolling Stock Complex

Commercial satellite imagery shows that the Wonsan Railway Rolling Stock Complex is currently active and appears to be well maintained by North Korean standards. In addition to its production and repair responsibilities, the complex serves as a center for North Korean railroad technical research and development.

Yongbyon Declassified: At Ground Zero

The exact origins of North Korea’s nuclear program are still shrouded in mystery despite being the object of study for over twenty-five years. Contrary to common perception, early satellite imagery from the Central Intelligence Agency, taken on December 15, 1962 and June 27, 1963, shows that construction on the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center in North Korea started sometime after June 27, 1963 and before July 16, 1964.

No Launch Activity in Advance of Inter-Korean Summit

On Saturday April 21, commercial satellite imagery from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station indicates minimal to no activity ahead of the inter-Korean summit. While dwindled ground activity could be attributed to the fact that images were taken during a weekend, the absence of any parked vehicular traffic and human activity suggests compliance with the leadership’s declaration, coming out of the Third Plenary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party.

Yongbyon Declassified Part I: Early Work on First Nuclear Research Reactor

Despite being the subject of intense study for almost 60 years there is remarkably little independently verifiable information concerning the development of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure available at the unclassified level. This series of reports entitled "Yongbyon Declassified," tries to rectify that by examining high-resolution satellite imagery acquired by early U.S. reconnaissance programs.

North Korean Special Operations Forces: Hovercraft Bases (Part IV)

North Korean special forces are a critical component of the Korean People's Army. Within the Korean People's Army Naval Force, unique sniper brigades exist to carry out specialized missions focused on sabotage and subversion of command and control facilities, reconnaissance, infiltration, and amphibious landings and assaults. As part of a four-part series, this final report provides more details about the development, organization, deployment, and training of North Korean hovercraft units which form part of the KPN sniper brigades.

North Korean Special Operations Forces: Hovercraft Bases (Part III)

Key among North Korea’s military capabilities are its special operations forces. Embedded within North Korea's special operations forces are two unique navy “sniper” brigades that are subordinate to the Korean People’s Navy. Hovercraft units that operate as part of these brigades have been trained to carry out a more specialized task—amphibious assault landings and infiltration missions.

North Korean Special Operations Forces: Hovercraft Bases (Part II)

Satellite imagery analysis shows that North Korea continues to develop its conventional military forces in targeted areas. Construction on a new hovercraft base near Yonbong-ni could indicate a significant escalation of the navy sniper brigade threat to the ROK islands in the West Sea and ports along the coast.

North Korean Special Operations Forces: Hovercraft Bases (Part I)

North Korea has one of the largest special operations forces (SOF) in the world with specially trained, elite soldiers numbering close to 200,000. Among these unique special operations forces today are two navy “sniper” brigades. North Korean hovercraft units—a key element in supporting navy sniper brigades' offensive operations—have evolved and become more threatening over time as a result of restructuring, modernization and construction of new bases closer to the Northern Limit Line.

Pyongyang Gas Stations and Fluctuating Fuel Prices

In July and September 2017, unconfirmed reports circulated about dramatically fluctuating gasoline and diesel prices in North Korea. There were also reports that China was planning to suspend or limit fuel exports to North Korea. Analysis of satellite imagery from around this period indicates that a fuel suspension of any significant length does not appear to have affected Pyongyang.

Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge Closure

On November 24, 2017, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters that the Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge will be closed temporarily in the “near future” for repairs. A detailed analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery from November 24th shows no activity on the bridge—repair or otherwise.

Kaesong Industrial Complex Not Operational Despite Minor Activity

In October, it was reported that North Korea was secretly operating factories inside the Kaesong Industrial Complex without notifying the South Korean government. Satellite imagery shows that while there may be some token industrial activity occurring, the complex is not operational in any real sense of the term.

The Politics of the North Korean Floods

Between August 29 and September 1, 2016, Typhoon Lionrock poured a foot of rain onto parts of North Korea causing widespread flooding, the most severe being near the Tumen River.

Implications of North Korean Flood

Heavy rains triggered by Typhoon Lionrock hit the northern part of North Korea in late August. Extensive damage to infrastructure and agricultural fields occurred as a result. Examining satellite imagery is helpful in assessing the extent of flood damage.

Decrease in Trade After Nuclear Test

Dandong, China, remains the epicenter of cross-border economic transactions between China and North Korea, where regular boat, railway, and road traffic is witnessed.