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Seoul official: North Korea could be dismantling rocket launch pad

By
Elizabeth Shim
South Korea's outgoing Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (R) commented on the Sohae rocket launch site in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, on MOnday. EPA-EFE/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT
South Korea's outgoing Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (R) commented on the Sohae rocket launch site in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, on MOnday. EPA-EFE/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT

SEOUL, March 18 (UPI) -- South Korea's unification minister said Monday North Korea activity at a missile launch site could be preparations for a "demolition."

Cho Myong-gyon, who will soon be replaced by Kim Yeon-cheol, the chief of a Seoul-run think tank, told the National Assembly's foreign affairs and unification committee opinion is divided among officials in the South whether North Korea is restarting missile-related activity or getting ready to destroy the site, Yonhap reported Monday.

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The demolition activity could be happening because North Korea had been anticipating a deal would be reached with the United States in Hanoi in February, Cho said.

The summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un collapsed and ended without a deal.

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Cho, who has held working-level talks with the North several times in 2018, said there is a "good chance" Pyongyang is working toward demolition, but left open the possibility there are other reasons for the activity at the Sohae launch site in Tongchang-ri.

The unification minister added Kim is "focusing on economic construction," and that through denuclearization the North Korean leader wants to secure his regime for economic reasons.

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Cho also said it is "unfortunate" $8 million of humanitarian aid that was to go to assisting North Korea has been "delayed" because of stalled negotiations.

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The ministry's assessment comes at a time when North Korea has increased verbal attacks against the South Korean military.

South Korean newspaper Asia Business Daily reported Monday North Korea claimed 122 times Seoul violated inter-Korea agreements since the signing of the Sept. 19 agreement.

The two sides dismantled guard posts and agreed to disarm guards in the Joint Security Area of the demilitarized zone as part of the agreement.

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North Korea has since claimed U.S.-South Korea drills are a violation of the accord.

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