At the Hanoi Summit, the U.S. President Donald Trump revealed that North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un promised to not initiate additional missile or nuclear tests.
“Kim promised me last night, regardless, he’s not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear, not going to do testing. So I trust him and I take him at his word and I hope that’s true. But in the meantime, we will be talking,” Trump said on February 28.
Within 1 week, reports have surfaced that North Korea has started to rebuild its missile launch site, breaking the promise Kim made with President Trump.
Why North Korea is Restoring Missile Launch Site and Risk Talks With Trump
According to 38 North, North Korea has begun to rebuild structures at the Tongchang-ri missile launch site.
The satellite image obtained by DigitalGlobe has shown no activity on February 16, prior to the talks at the Hanoi Summit, and on March 2, several construction cranes were sighted, suggesting that the restoration process of the site has started.
Some strategists have been cautious on evaluating the intent of North Korea behind the restoration of the Tongchang-ri missile launch site.
Joseph Yun, the former special representative of North Korea Policy at the State Department, said that if the intent of North Korea intended to rebuild its missile launch site to portray its dissatisfaction of the Hanoi Summit, it would have let the U.S. know in a direct manner.
“If North Korea does something they want us to know, they would say it. They haven’t said anything. We don’t know enough to say one way or the other. My own guess is it’s too early to think that this is a response to happen in Hanoi,” he said.
But, the time frame of the restoration could pose a serious issue during the talks between the U.S. and North Korea.
President Donald Trump said after the Hanoi Summit that Kim personally said the country will not conduct any more tests in the near-term.
Yet, 48 hours after the Hanoi Summit, the structures at high-profile missile launch sites have started to be rebuilt and it is far-fetched to suggest that North Korea would not have considered the effect it could have on both the U.S.-North Korea talks and the relationship between the two leaders.
The national security advisor of President Trump John Bolton said:
If they’re serious about the talks, whether they want to get back into them and fundamentally, whether they’re committed to giving up their nuclear weapons program and everything associated with it.
If they’re not willing to do it, President Trump has been very clear they’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact.
What Strategy is This?
The strategy of North Korea is conflicting in that it has adhered to other commitments outlined by the U.S.
North Korea has temporarily stopped testing at the Yongbyon complex, restricting plutonium production.
Fully aware of President Trump’s statement at the Hanoi Summit and that the U.S. authorities are keenly observing activities in the Yongbyon region with satellite imaging technologies, the restoration of Tongchang-ri is said to be a sign of displeasure by North Korea.
“Coming right on the heels of the Hanoi summit, this reads as an expression of dissatisfaction. It’s the sort of thing you might do if you felt that your partner had reneged,” Joshua Pollack, a scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and missile proliferation expert, said.