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The Leap Day Deal: A Cautionary Tale for the Trump Administration

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The past few days have been filled with reports that North Korea is rebuilding partially dismantled facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) and speculation that it might be preparing to renew testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). There is no evidence to suggest that Pyongyang is planning to launch anything yet based on available commercial satellite imagery. But of course, that possibility cannot be ruled out.

Launching a genuine ICBM from Sohae would not only be unwise but risky. First, the result would be international condemnation, including from the Chinese and Russians. Second, why would North Korea launch an ICBM from a fixed pad that the whole world is watching when it could conduct a test from a mobile launcher somewhere else? It’s very unlikely but a launch from Sohae would at least open up the possibility of destroying the missile either on the pad or in flight.

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