What does it take to cast doubts on North Korea’s freeze of their ballistic missile program? Today, the Washington Post showed it takes only a single unnamed US official who claims to be “familiar with the intelligence.”
The report starts by noting satellite photos from a month ago suggest work is underway at North Korea’s Sanumdong research site. This was a site linked to past missiles, so naturally they concluded the factory might be building one or two new ICBMs.
Of course, there is no direct evidence North Korea is doing this. Indeed, North Korea just dismantled a test launching site for liquid-fueled ICBMs days ago. The official cited, however, pointed out that North Korea could conceivably rebuild the destroyed test stands “within months.”
North Korea’s ability to build ICBMs, and to replace test sites that they built in the first place, are not in doubt. The question, totally unanswered by the report, is whether they are actually doing so. There is no hint of a reason for North Korea to do so, and North Korea hasn’t launched a test missile in about nine months.
This makes it fairly easy to dismiss the allegations as idle speculation. At the same time, history suggests that opponents of North Korea diplomacy, of which there are many, will spread this report as gospel truth, and keep repeating the claims until they gain credibility simply for being oft-repeated.