North Korea May Soon Complete Satellite Launch Site Upgrade

  • Images Show Nation Near End of 3-Year Program, 38 North Says
  • Upgrade could enable Kim Jong Un to launch rockets into space

North Korea may be near the end of a three-year upgrade of its Sohae satellite launch site, potentially enabling the isolated nation to test and fire larger rockets, a U.S. research institute that monitors the country said.

Satellite images show that construction of new propellant bunkers at the site near the border with China is near completion, 38 North reported. This could enable leader Kim Jong Un to launch rockets into space by the first quarter of 2016, according to the website run by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Despite years of United Nations sanctions, North Korea has continued to expand its nuclear arsenal development and the range of its ballistic missiles, which the regime in Pyongyang calls its defense against a U.S.-led invasion to forcibly unify the peninsula more than 60 years after the Korean War ended in a stalemate.

In September, North Korea said it was ready to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. at any time and that its main nuclear facility was fully operational, prompting South Korean President Park Geun Hye to say the country would pay a price if it continues to defy the UN and follows through on such threats. The U.S. and South Korea approved a plan last month to detect, disrupt and destroy North Korean missiles if needed.

South Korea estimates North Korea has 2,500 tons to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons. North Korea also possesses an arsenal of missiles it says can strike the U.S. The regime conducted its third nuclear test in 2013 and threatened this year to conduct a fourth one.

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