North Korea is building a monument at the site of its last intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test carried out in November 2017, commercial satellite imagery shows.
According to Dave Schmerler, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a structure to commemorate the successful launch of the Hwasong-15, Pyongyang’s most powerful long-range missile, is currently under development.
— Dave Schmerler (@DaveSchmerler) March 11, 2018
Following the November 28 test, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delcared the country had achieved “the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
Writing for the Arms Control Wonk blog, Schmerler says satellite photographs taken more than two months later provide a “glimpse into how Kim Jong Un and other leaders in North Korea think about nuclear weapons.”
“Sometime between February 10-17, there was more construction activity. At first, I wondered if I had made a mistake,” Schmerler notes. “Maybe the construction was for something else, and the timing was just a coincidence.”
“I then I realized what was happening: North Korea was building a monument to the launch.”
Analysis of photographs during that time show not only a monument, but a parking lot as well.
“The existence of a monument, along with parking spaces, suggests we may see this site again,” Schmerler adds. “Perhaps Kim Jong Un will make a visit, allowing us to see ground-truth images.”
Upon discovering the burgeoning landmark, Schmerler also began checking imagery from the test site of North Korea’s July 4 Hwasong-14 ICBM.
Schmerler discovered Pyongyang had built two monuments, one at the observation site and one at the launch pad, to the Hwasong-14’s first launch as well.
“The monuments are new. But they suggest an ongoing effort by the government to memorialize the event,” Schmerler says. “Missile launches clearly mean a lot to the North Koreans.”
News of the monuments come as U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet the North Korean leader to discuss the country’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.