South Korea’s military warned Monday it is monitoring North Korea for a “missile launch,” after satellite imagery showed renewed activity at several key rocket facilities.
Seoul is “closely tracking and looking into all activity for possible scenarios including a missile launch” in North said Korea Kim Joon Rak, spokesman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He added that South Korea was in close contact with Washington regarding developments.
Satellite imagery published last week suggested that Pyongyang had renewed activity at the Samundong missile research facility and the Sohae rocket-testing facility. This prompted concerns that Kim Jong Un was returning the regime to its missile-testing program in the wake of a failed summit with President Donald Trump in Hanoi last month.
Trump said last week that he would be “very disappointed” if Pyongyang restarted missile testing and National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday that the U.S. was watching North Korea “unblinkingly.”
“There's a lot of activity all the time in North Korea, but I'm not going to speculate on what that particular commercial satellite picture shows," Bolton told ABC News. “We see exactly what they're doing now. We see it unblinkingly, and we don't have any illusions about what their capabilities are.”
Reports last week revealed recent movement of cargo vehicles around a factory at Sanumdong near Pyongyang, which produced North Korea’s first ICBM capable of reaching the U.S.
Separate satellite imagery released earlier that week showed North Korea had also started rebuilding work at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the northwest of the country — a site that was previously used to test rocket engines.
Experts are divided about the seriousness of the new activity, with many pointing out that the regime may be preparing a satellite launch rather than a missile test. Others, however, note that satellite rockets share similar technology to missiles.
Monday’s warning from Seoul came a day after North Koreans went to the polls to vote for pre-selected members to the Supreme People's Assembly.
Kim Jong Un’s Workers’ Party holds elections every five years where only a single approved name appears on the ballot. The event is designed to cement national unity and reinforce the position of Kim as the nation’s leader.
Kim participated in the vote, casting his ballot at a polling station at Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, a signal that the dictator wants to focus on the country’s economic future.
Kim voted for Hong So Hon, the president of the university who was the only candidate on the ballot.
Turnout in the last election was 99.97 percent, according to the official KCNA news agency. Only those who were abroad or “working in oceans” did not take part.
Cover image: Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday, March 2, 2019. (Jorge Silva/Pool via Bloomberg)