Satellite images have revealed that North Korea is building artificial islands in the Yellow Sea and topping them with what appear to be military installations.
The construction has been unveiled amidst China’s artificial islands that have been stirring up regional tensions by building and militarizing several artificial islands in the South China Sea in recent years.
The satellite images show that North Korea has been working for at least five years on the islands near the western city of Sohae, about 130 miles from Pyongyang, the capital.
Sohae is renowned as a testing site for intercontinental ballistic missile technology. Back in 2012, three of the islands, which are scattered around a small peninsula projecting into the Yellow Sea, were rocky, tree-studded specks; two were patches of sand.
Google Earth images from December 2016, show features consistent with military installations, such as wide roads and paved, rectangular lots. They all appear in North Korea’s waters, close to the country’s shoreline.
However, the purpose of the Islands remains unclear. North Korea could use the islands for ballistic missile launches, anti-aircraft weapons, anti-ship weapons or even for agriculture, with no military purpose in mind.
A statement from Ryan Barenklau, chief executive of Strategic Sentinel, revealed that definitive statements cannot be made as to what these islands are being used for.
Barenklau emphasized that there’s a higher probability that the islands are meant for military use. The roads on the islands feature wide turns, indicating that they could be used for transporter erector launchers: massive, missile-bearing trucks.
There are also light patches on the rectangular lots could be heat-resistant cement, a sign that they may have been designed as launch pads.
He also pointed out that they have observation areas, for someone like Kim Jong Un to observe a missile launches. Barenklau also said that VIP buildings indicate that there’s most likely a military application, since Kim Jong Un likes to view the operations of what is being developed.
The tensions on the Korean peninsula are at their highest point in years. North Korea possesses nuclear weapons, and has tested several ballistic missiles in recent months. Reports from analysts indicate that it could soon be able to launch a nuclear strike.
Part of North Korea’s new islands appear to be a part of the Taegyedo Tideland Reclamation Project, which its government began decades ago and finished in 2012. Reports from North Korean state media indicate that the area, once part of the Yellow Sea, now contains a fish farm, a duck farm, and an oyster farm.
Steve Sin, a researcher on unconventional weapons and technology at the University of Maryland revealed that the North Koreans build just about everything for dual purpose, adding that building something that is of military use on an agricultural project is certainly within its usual pattern.