Jeffrey Lewis, a North Korea specialist at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., tweeted that the test stand was used to test missile cold ejections, not for flight tests. He said he would strongly dispute the characterization of the facility as “key.”
The Kusong test site was not the only place North Korea has tested its Pukguksong-2 system. In May last year, it launched the same missile from Pukchang, south of Kusong. South Korean officials suspected that a North Korean missile that exploded shortly after takeoff from the east coast in April last year may also have been a Pukguksong-2 missile.
Mr. Kim, North Korea’s leader, announced on April 20 that he would discontinue nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, doing so as his government negotiated with Washington on holding a summit meeting with President Trump. North Korea invited outside journalists to watch the shutting down of its only known nuclear test site on May 24.
The summit meeting is now scheduled to take place in Singapore next Tuesday.
After a series of tests, North Korea declared late last year that it had mastered the ability to launch a nuclear missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.
But its Hwasong-series intercontinental ballistic missiles use liquid fuel. Unlike solid-fuel missiles, liquid-fuel rockets have to be loaded with fuel just before launching, a process that can take up to an hour and make the missile vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike.
As United States officials were sorting out the final details for Mr. Trump’s summit meeting with Mr. Kim, a top United Nations expert on human rights in North Korea urged Mr. Kim to start freeing prisoners under a general amnesty ahead of the meeting next week.
Such an amnesty would send “a good signal,” Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, told reporters in Geneva, according to Agence France-Presse. “There is no rule of law in the country,” he added.
North Korea has been denounced as one of the worst human rights violators in the world, accused of extrajudicial killings, torture, chronic food insecurity, lack of freedom of expression and running a network of prison camps. Human rights groups are demanding Mr. Trump put human rights on his agenda when he meets with Mr. Kim.