Tensions between the two Koreas have recently escalated after North Korean soldiers fired shots at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone at the weekend. South Korean troops fired back warning shots, but no casualties were reported. On Wednesday, Seoul authorised military exercises, that were carried out by the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) Air Combat Command.
This provoked a furious response from Pyogyang, which called the exercises a “grave provocation” that demanded a reaction.
In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a North Korean military representative said: “The recent drill served as an opportunity which awakened us once again to the obvious fact that the enemies remain enemies all the time.
“Such reckless move of the military warmongers of the south side is the height of the military confrontation which would leave tongue-tied even their master.
“Everything is now going back to the starting point before the north-south summit meeting in 2018.”
This comes as new intelligence from satellite photos shows Kim Jong-un moving ahead at full speed with his nuclear weapons programmes.
The Supreme Leader is racing to construct a giant storage and assembly area for his lethal nuclear ballistic missiles, according to South Korea news website Daily NK.
The news will come as a major blow to US president Donald Trump, who has met the North Korean three times in the past year to try and persuade him to give up his atomic plans.
The new base is being constructed on the site of an abandoned underground storage area, that was built in the 1980s to shelter and protect fighter planes.
It is located close to Pyongyang’s main airport and its underground storage areas and buildings are big enough to house the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
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The site is defended by surface-to-air missiles and there are some 17 air defence bases and barracks within three miles.
A US think tank estimates that the site will be completed either late this year or early next year.
The Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies said: “While the precise function of the facility is unclear, its configuration and the size of its buildings and UGF [underground facility] indicate that it can be used for the assembly of ballistic missiles from components delivered by rail from nearby factories.”
The report’s author, Joseph Bermudez, claimed that the site, named the “Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility” could house all known and anticipated North Korean ballistic missiles, along with their launchers.
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The blunt-nosed Hwasong-15 was first test fired on November 29 2017 from the Sain-ni area and proved to be a milestone, as it marked the longest ever flight of a North Korean ICBM.
Its estimated 13,000 km range means the missile could be used to strike anywhere in the United States and Europe, leaving only Antarctica and South America out of range.
If North Korea is able to miniaturise its nuclear weapon capability and pair a nuclear warhead to the Hwasong-15 ICBM, Pyongyang would be able to hold the entire US population at risk.
The US President has met three times with the North Korean dictator, once each in Singapore, Hanoi and in the demilitarised zone between the two Korea’s.
The talks are currently deadlocked, after neither side appeared ready to compromise on their respective agendas.
Mr Trump is insisting that the North Koreans abandon not only their nuclear programme but also their chemical and biological weapons.