The reports came after a second summit between Trump and Kim broke down last week in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi over differences on how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of US willingness to ease sanctions.
The Sanumdong factory produced two Hwasong-15 ICBMs, North Korea’s longest-range missiles that can fly over 13,000 km. After testing a new Hwasong-15 in late 2017, the country declared the completion of its “state nuclear force”, before pursuing talks with South Korea and the United States last year.
South Korea’s presidential office and defence ministry declined to confirm the reports of activity at Sanumdong, saying they are closely monitoring North Korea’s activities in cooperation with the US.
On Tuesday, two US think tanks and the South Korean spy agency reported that work was underway to restore part of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station even as the Hanoi meeting took place.
North Korea began work to dismantle a missile engine test stand at Sohae last year in line with Kim’s pledge made at his first summit with Trump in June in Singapore.
“I would be very disappointed if that were happening,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if North Korea was breaking a promise.
“It’s too early to see … It’s a very early report. We’re the ones that put it out. But I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim, and I don’t think I will be, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll take a look. It’ll ultimately get solved.”
Trump, eager for a big foreign policy win on North Korea that has eluded predecessors for decades, has repeatedly stressed his good relationship with Kim. But the bonhomie has failed so far to bridge the wide gap between the two sides.
Imagery from Planet Labs analyzed by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California showed activity at Sohae from February 23 up until Wednesday. A US government source said the work at Sohae likely began before the summit, which was preceded by a series of lower-level talks in February.
Some analysts have interpreted the work at Sohae as an attempt by North Korea to put pressure on Washington to agree to a deal rather than as a definite move to resume tests there.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s state TV on Wednesday, local time, aired a documentary glorifying leader Kim’s visit to Vietnam that omitted the failed nuclear negotiations with Trump.
The documentary shows a smiling Kim talking with Trump while walking together inside a Hanoi hotel last week. It shows Kim’s black limousine passing through a Hanoi street lined with residents waving flags.
The footage also shows Kim visiting the North Korean Embassy where some skipped and wept with emotions before they took a group photo with the backdrop of a huge picture of Kim’s late father and grandfather.
The documentary cited Kim as saying North Korea and the US must put an end to their decades-long animosity and confrontation. But it didn’t mention about the lack of an agreement following the Kim-Trump summit.
The Hanoi summit broke down due to disputes over US-led sanctions on North Korea. Washington and Pyongyang blame each other for the talks’ breakdown, but both sides still leave the door open for future negotiations.