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North Korea's Mystery Islands: Man-made Keys Could Be New Nuclear Launch Sites

May 10, 2017 08:53 AM EDT
South Korea Reacts To North Korean Missile Launch
North Korea might be working on missile launch sites on artificial islands developed surrounding the Sohae Satellite Launching Station.
(Photo : Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

North Korea has been working on artificial islands in the Yellow Sea around the Sohae Satellite Launching Station for the past five years, and speculation is growing that these could be potential missile launch sites.

According to a report from Fox News, the station is a missile development and testing site around 70 miles northwest of Pyongyang in North Korea. Satellite images have revealed that these artificial islands contain military equipment. It's been in development for at least five years.

"North Korea is never up to any good," Gordon Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World, said. "The new facilities, whatever their purpose, will be used for evil deeds, mischief, or troublemaking of some sort. My sense is that the facilities on the new islands will be used for missile launches of some kind, especially because they are near Sohae."

It's very likely that the North Korean artificial islands are being used for military purposes with roads designed to fit large trucks that can fit missiles, a report from Los Angeles Times revealed. Light patches have also been spotted on rectangular lots in the island, which could be heat-resistant cement used for launch pads.

"And they have observation areas, for someone like [the country's leader] Kim Jong Un to observe a missile launch," Ryan Barenklau of Strategic Sentinel explained. "Every time we see VIP buildings, that tells us there's most likely a military application, because Kim Jong Un likes to view the operations of whatever they're building."

Not everyone is convinced that North Korea's man-made islands are being used for missiles, though. North Korea expert and political science professor Dr. Bruce Bechtol believe that the islands aren't a threat to other countries, specifically South Korea and the United States.

"The land mass of those islands is too small to move around missiles," he pointed out. "It's interesting that they're developing these islands, but they're probably mostly for civilian use."

Bechtol added that it could also just be a solution to agricultural problems by providing more land for fish and oyster farms for the hermit country. 

It's not the world's first time seeing such islands. China has already built and militarized a number of islands in the West Philippine Sea in its efforts to strengthen their territorial claims in the lengthy disputes over this body of water.

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