China

North Korea

South Korea

Pyongyang

Punggye-ri

Musudan-ri

Yongjo-ri

Sinpo

Taechon

Yongbyon

Tongchang-ri

Sino-ri

Sunchon

Pakchon

Kangson

Sangnam-ni

Pyongsan

China

North Korea

South Korea

Pyongyang

Punggye-ri

Musudan-ri

Yongjo-ri

Sinpo

Taechon

Yongbyon

Tongchang-ri

Sino-ri

Sunchon

Pakchon

Kangson

Sangnam-ni

Pyongsan

China

North Korea

Yongbyon

Pyongyang

South Korea

China

North Korea

Tongchang-ri

Pyongyang

South Korea

China

Punggye-ri

Musudan-ri

North Korea

South Korea

South Korea

China

North Korea

Pyongyang

Sino-ri

Kangson

Sangnam-ni

China

North Korea

South Korea

Pyongyang

Sino-ri

Kangson

China

North Korea

South Korea

Pyongyang

Sino-ri

Kangson

China

North Korea

South Korea

Sangnam-ni

A satellite view of
North Korea's nuclear sites

The second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended abruptly without an agreement on Feb. 28, as the two sides were unable to meet each other's demands regarding denuclearization and the easing of economic sanctions. Complicating matters, the extent of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs remains shrouded in mystery, as its facilities are scattered all over the country. The failure to produce a deal in Hanoi has underscored the formidable diplomatic challenges involved in ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.

North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities

North Korea began studies into nuclear power in the 1950s, and has been pushing ahead with weapons development programs in recent years. Wary that it lags the South Korean military and U.S. forces stationed in the South in terms of conventional weapons, Pyongyang has intensified the reinforcement of its nuclear and missile capabilities. In 2005, the regime declared that it had achieved nuclear power status, and is now estimated to have at least 10 to 20 nuclear warheads.

  • Nuclear facilities
  • Missile bases/launch sites

Key facilities

Yongbyon

Many core facilities are thought to be located at Yongbyon in the northwest of the country. They include reactors, a nuclear fuel plant and a laboratory. In 2007, North Korea pledged to dismantle all of its nuclear facilities at the six-party talks. It also said it would accept inspections by international observers in return for accords such as the removal of its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The regime destroyed a cooling tower at its nuclear reactor complex in the presence of foreign journalist in 2008. But in 2013 it declared that all nuclear facilities would be restarted.

North Korea continues to work on an experimental light water reactor at the Yongbyon site. (June 21, 2018)

North Korea continues to work on an experimental light water reactor at the Yongbyon site. (June 21, 2018)
Pleiades © CNES 2018, provided by Airbus Defence and Space and 38 North/Kyodo

During the summit, Kim expressed a willingness to decommission the Yongbyon nuclear complex, reportedly asking for sanctions to be lifted in return. Trump rejected the proposal, stating that scrapping only Yongbyon would not be enough and demanding that other facilities also be dismantled.

Tongchang-ri

North Korea's threat to the international community stems not only from its nuclear arms, but also the possession of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

A missile launch at Tongchang-ri in 2012 (AP)

A missile launch at Tongchang-ri in 2012 (AP)

Kim Jong Un visits the site in 2016. (Reuters)

Kim Jong Un visits the site in 2016. (Reuters)

In the early 2000s, North Korea began building a new missile test site at Tongchang-ri in the northwest to replace an aging site in Musudan-ri. The new site is believed to have been instrumental in the country's development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Launch tests and engine combustion tests of the upgraded Taepodong-2 were conducted there. At the inter-Korean summit in September, Kim Jong Un promised to dismantle the engine test facility and launchpad in the presence of experts from countries concerned, including the U.S.

Punggye-ri

Between 2006 and 2017, a total of six underground nuclear tests were conducted at Punggye-ri in the northeast of the country. Pyongyang last year allowed foreign reporters to witness the destruction of a number of tunnels at the site, without permitting U.S. and South Korean experts to carry out detailed inspections.

North Korea demolished a nuclear test site at Punggye-ri in May 2018. (Reuters)

North Korea demolished a nuclear test site at Punggye-ri in May 2018. (Reuters)

But as only the entrances of the tunnels were destroyed, the facilities inside remain intact, according to some experts. Others have pointed out that the abolition of the Punggye-ri site at this stage has little effect, as the country appears to have already accumulated the data it needs through previous tests.

Other facilities

According to North Korea watchers, Pyongyang has many other nuclear and missile facilities that have not been revealed. Work at sites concealed in mountain areas has been exposed by intelligence satellites. One U.S. think tank has claimed that Pyongyang has continued its nuclear development program since the first Trump-Kim meeting. In addition, determining the entire picture of North Korea's missile capability is extremely difficult, as the country is also in possession of mobile launchers.

Kangson

Uranium enrichment site

Uranium enrichment site
Planet Labs/Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

A covert uranium enrichment site has been located at Kangson near Pyongyang by The Diplomat, a foreign affairs magazine, and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Sino-ri

Sobaek-su Academy for higher education of Strategic Force personnel/Myodu-san training area/ballistic missile-related facilities in Sino-ri area (Dec. 27, 2018)

Sobaek-su Academy for higher education of Strategic Force personnel/Myodu-san training area/ballistic missile-related facilities in Sino-ri area (Dec. 27, 2018)
CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report in January that North Korea had an undeclared missile base in Sino-ri. The base has apparently not featured in negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

Sangnam-ni

Potential entrance to an underground facility/shelter at Sangnam-ni missile base (Dec. 9, 2018)

Potential entrance to an underground facility/shelter at Sangnam-ni missile base (Dec. 9, 2018)
CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019

The CSIS also claims it has detected a new missile base in Sangnam-ni. There may be 15 to 20 undeclared missile bases in operation in North Korea, it said.

Hurdles to denuclearization

North Korea is not in a position to immediately abandon its nuclear arms program. Pyongyang sees it as an important bargaining chip with which to win economic support from the international community and crucial to the survival of the regime. The country is therefore suspected of secretly continuing nuclear and missile development. Even in negotiations with the U.S., Pyongyang has refused to provide a detailed list of nuclear-related facilities. After Trump and Kim failed to come to an agreement, the world faces the prospect of North Korea maintaining and potentially even expanding its nuclear arsenal. Progress toward complete denuclearization is at a critical juncture.