North Korea has begun a large-scale building program at its key missile-launch complex, according to the expert website 38 North, which analyzed satellite surveillance photographs taken toward the end of last month.
Six notable new construction efforts have begun so far this summer at the Dongchang-ri missile site, which is the newer and larger of North Korea's two missile-firing facilities. Of special interest is a work site that might be turned into a cement "flat launch pad," which could serve as a platform for launching ballistic missiles from road-mobile launchers illicitly acquired from China, according to image expert Nick Hansen, who authored the 38 North report.
It is still too early in the construction to reach a decisive conclusion on the implications of the building work, according to Hansen.
Still, the absence of any notable movement at the North's older missile launching facility at Musudan-ri and the amount of building work around Dongchang-ri suggests that Pyongyang does not plan to carry out any more missile or rocket launches in the next half year, concluded 38 North, which is a project of the Johns Hopkins University's U.S.-Korea Institute.
Meanwhile, the South Korean Defense Ministry in a Tuesday report to parliament declared that Pyongyang has the ability to produce a nuclear device whenever it wants, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
"North Korea's nuclear program remained at a developmental and experimental stage in 2010, but it has grown into a real threat in 2013, and it is able to make a nuclear device at any time," the ministry said, further noting that "China's changing attitude toward North Korea proves the seriousness of (its nuclear program)."
The Chinese military's deputy chief of general staff, Sun Jianguo, on Tuesday reiterated Beijing's "consistent and clear-cut" commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap separately reported.
China's senior negotiator to a paralyzed six-nation process aimed at achieving permanent North Korean denuclearization last week met with his North Korean counterpart. The two men "exchanged views on the resumption of the six-party talks," according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
The six-party nuclear talks involve China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States. The aid-for-denuclearization negotiations were last held in late 2008.