December 2019 Update: The Magunpo Solid Rocket Motor Test Facility

Military, Nuclear Weapons
, by and The Magunpo Solid Rocket Motor Test Facility is located a few kilometers west of the Hamhung-Hungnam area and along the east coast of North Korea. December 6 imagery shows minor activity at the facility, including the presence of a small truck and some crates. Although no recent test appears to have taken place (i.e., absence of scarring in the exhaust deflector and healthy surrounding vegetation), the facility appears to be well-maintained and ready for solid rocket motor testing at any time. A successful test of solid fuel propellant engine, particularly at the east test stand, would denote another major advancement in survivable nuclear weapons capability, and would presumably also be designed to put additional pressure on the U.S. to make concessions in negotiations.

Sohae Engine Test Part of Coercive Diplomacy Tactic as End-of-Year Deadline Approaches

Military, Nuclear Weapons
, by and On December 7, North Korea conducted what it described as a “…very important test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground.” Satellite imagery in the days leading up to and after the test clearly shows that this was a rocket engine test at the vertical engine test stand at Sohae. This test was most probably of a liquid-fuel rocket engine as only liquid-fuel rocket engines have previously been tested here, while large solid rocket motors have been tested at the Magunpo Solid Rocket Motor Test Facility on the east coast and elsewhere. Whether the liquid-fuel rocket engine was an existing model or a new one is unknown.

December 2019 Sinpo Update: No Significant Developments

Military
, by and There is no evidence that the “newly built submarine” inspected by Kim Jong-un on July 23, 2019 has been launched. While many media sources have described this new submarine as an imminent threat, it is more accurate to describe it as an emerging threat. The large canopy constructed during late-August and early-September that conceals much of the submarine dock precludes confirmation that the existing SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) is present.

Living History with Minister Song Min-soon

Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Weapons
This Living History interview features former South Korean minister of foreign affairs and trade, Song Min-soon. Song was director general for North American affairs and chief delegate during the six-party talks in 2005. He played a key role in the multilateral denuclearization agreement with North Korea, involving the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia, achieved in September 2005.

North Korea’s Strong Hand Against the U.S.

Commentary
, by For Halloween, Kim Jong Un gave Donald Trump a trick, not a treat: North Korea fired two short-range missiles on Thursday toward the Sea of Japan. It was North Korea’s 13th weapons test this year—and the first since the Trump administration’s latest attempt to restart negotiations with North Korea quietly failed a few weeks ago. The first talks between the two sides in eight months broke down after only 8½ hours in Stockholm. The North Korean delegates stalked out, and Pyongyang subsequently said they wouldn’t resume the “sickening” negotiations with the U.S.

Soft Diplomacy, Hard Stance

Commentary
In this episode, Andrew talks with resident North Korea expert Victor Cha, and Dr. Kang Choi, acting president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. They discuss North Korea’s recent missile launch, South Korea-Japan relations, and more... In this episode, Andrew talks with resident North Korea expert Victor Cha, and Dr. Kang…

The Perfect Storm

Commentary
In this episode, Andrew talks with resident North Korea experts Victor Cha and Sue Mi Terry about the failed U.S.-North Korea Stockholm talks and what they mean for the stalled nuclear negotiations... In this episode, Andrew talks with resident North Korea experts Victor Cha and Sue Mi…

Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: Imagery Supports ROK and U.S. Government Reservations about Permanent Disablement

Military, Nuclear Weapons
, by and Analysis of satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility acquired during 2019 and more specifically on September 23rd and October 9th, 2019 shows the facility in caretaker status, likely being maintained by security personnel. While there is no evidence of current efforts to restore any of the nuclear test portals, several observations lead us to believe the facility has not been permanently disabled and that the detonations in May 2018 are not necessarily irreversible.