Joel Wit, founder of 38 North and a former State Department official, said many of the facilities that are being razed are relatively new and have only been in place within the last two years. For that reason, he believes North Korea is disassembling the facilities as a “confidence-building measure” and a first step toward the Trump Administration’s goal of “denuclearizing.”
The North Koreans “aren’t doing this for any other reason,” Wit said. “I think it’s a significant move, but I don’t want to oversell it. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Sohae is North Korea’s main satellite launching facility, where the nation put satellites into orbit atop powerful rockets in 2012 and 2016. The launches drew international criticism because the technology could also be used with ballistic missiles. The launch in February 2016 was particularly contentious because Pyongyang had conducted a nuclear test just a month earlier.