Fresh satellite images of North Korea obtained by CNN show new work and the expansion of buildings associated with the production of long-range intercontinental ballistic missile launchers in Pyongsong, North Korea.
The March 16 factory in Pyongsong produces trucks for North Korea's military and was involved in modifying launchers imported from China and producing domestic vehicles for North Korea's ICBM programs, according to Jeff Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute.
Lewis told CNN that North Korea in the past has been forced to import the heavy-duty chassis strong enough to transport massive missiles.
"The expansion of the factory may represent a growing capability of North Korea to produce these trucks domestically," Lewis said in explaining the significance.
The revelation of the new expansion comes amid threats that North Korea may be getting closer to a long-range missile test or some other provocative act. Earlier in December, Pyongyang had ominously threatened to send the US a "Christmas gift."
A US administration official told CNN on Friday that North Korea may be preparing to test engines and other components of its missile program. But senior military commanders said Friday that the US is ready for "whatever" Pyongyang might do.
For months, US intelligence has said that the working assumption was always that Pyongyang is still researching and manufacturing missiles, and has been all along, but that much of it was not visible.
The Trump administration has been trying to negotiate with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program, which poses a threat to US allies South Korea and Japan, and thousands of US troops based in both countries. Those talks have been stalled, even as Pyongyang has pursued technical improvements to its program that increasingly could put the US within range of its rockets.
Asked about recent comments and indicators from North Korea that Pyongyang may be getting closer to a long-range missile test or some other provocative act, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Friday that the Pentagon does not "discuss any intelligence or indicators" on what the US may be seeing in the way of preparations by North Korea.