North Korea demolishes main missile test stand

SEOUL, June 7 (UPI) — North Korea appears to have demolished its major missile test stand last month before it went on to dismantle its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

North Korea tracker 38 North cited satellite imagery from May 19, showing much of the test stand structures had been removed, including the concrete launch pad and adjacent support infrastructures.

It added that North Korea began removing them during the second week of May and completed dismantling them by May 19.

A week later, North Korea demolished its only known nuclear test site in the country’s northeastern province in an event witnessed by foreign journalists from the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea on May 24.

The removal of the North Korea’s major missile test facility came following the North Korea leader Kim Jong Un’s announcement on April 20 that he would suspend nuclear and missile tests. It was made a week before the North Korean leader met South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27. The statement was seen as the first step toward North’s denuclearization.

According to the report, the Iha-ri missile test stand located in the northwestern province was “the only known facility for land-based, canister-launched ballistic missiles,” which was critical to developing its medium-range ballistic missiles and possibly used for testing long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The site was used to conduct the first launch of the Pugkuksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile on Feb. 13, 2017. The missile, with a potential of flying 800-2,500 kilometers, would be short of reaching the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a South Korean military official of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a Hankook Ilbo news report last year.

The Pugkuksong-2 was also revealed during the North Korea’s military parade in February this year.