By Jamie Crawford
North Korea more than likely tested a long-range rocket engine late last month, according to analysis of new satellite imagery over the site.
In the photos released by 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, indicators of a probable test are seen through the presence of a probable rocket stage, propellant tanks, as well as the appearance of burned vegetation around the launch stand.
The photos were taken between August 25 and 30.
"These are not in and of themselves indicators that there is going to be a rocket test six months from now," Joel Wit, a former North Korea specialist at the State Department who is now with 38 North, told CNN about the photos.
By Jill Dougherty
The United States is hopeful that a visit to Pyongyang aimed at securing the release of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae will be "straightforward," but a U.S. official speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue tells CNN there are "no guarantees."
Ambassador Robert King, who's President Obama's special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will join a small delegation flying to Pyongyang on a U.S. military jet Friday. They are expected to spend 24 hours on the ground, meeting with North Korean officials.
"The sole purpose of the trip is to secure Bae's release," the official says. "Our expectation is that now is the time to move forward and resolve this, to release this American."
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea may be increasing its ability to enrich uranium at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, according to an analysis of recent satellite imagery.
The Institute for Science and International Security report concluded that North Korea appears to have greatly expanded a building in the fuel fabrication complex that is used for gas centrifuges in the uranium enrichment process at the reactor facility.
The development amounts to a doubling in size of the complex from its original construction.
Construction on the building expansion appears to have preceded an announcement by the North Korean government earlier this year that it planned on restart all the nuclear facilities at the previously mothballed site.
Pyongyang, North Korea (CNN) - The new leader of this isolated country has inaugurated a new veterans' cemetery, on the first of what are expected to be several days of elaborate ceremonies celebrating the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of the Korean War.
Several thousand North Koreans, some of them elderly veterans of the Korean conflict, cheered and applauded when Kim Jong Un arrived at the sprawling new cemetery accompanied by uniformed military commanders and civilian officials.
Kim did not speak to the audience. Instead, he cut a ribbon at the entrance to the cemetery compound, which is flanked by enormous monuments and statues depicting fierce North Korean soldiers.
He departed after making a brief tour of some of the gravestones. Then the crowd, which included men in baggy, dark suits and ties and women dressed in bright puffy gowns, walked with reverence past graves decorated with medals of heroism.FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea appears to have stopped work on a long-range missile launch site, according to newly released satellite imagery.
The analysis by 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, shows construction at the Tonghae launch site appears to have stopped eight months ago.
But as with everything when it comes to the opaque workings of North Korea, the search for a definitive reason behind the stoppage remain elusive.
"It's almost certain they are not going to stop developing long-range missiles. I don't think that's what is going on here," says Joel Wit, a former State Department official who manages the blog and studied the images. "We have to be very careful about trying to say what is going on, because the fact is we really don't know."
By Barbara Starr
Panama has formally asked the United States for technical help to inspect Cuban weapons found on board a North Korean freighter it seized.
"The government of Panama has requested our assistance, and we intend to provide it," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said.
"Generally speaking, the types of technical assistance we could provide include things like identifying the material on board, as well as providing personnel who are familiar with these types of inspections," she said.
The Panamanians asked for imaging equipment and technicians to fully examine and determine what is on board, according to a U.S. official.
The official declined to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has publicly said he wants international inspectors to survey the ship's cargo.
Panamanian authorities seized a North Korean-flagged vessel with an undeclared haul of weaponry in the Panamanian port of Manzanillo on Monday night, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said.
Panama's security minister, Jose Raul Mulino, told CNN the ship had arrived from Cuba.
Panamanian authorities had received intelligence the ship was carrying drugs, but a search Monday revealed military equipment hidden among a cargo of brown sugar.
It was not immediately clear what sort of military equipment was found.FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea appears to be moving ahead with efforts to improve and possibly modernize its long-range rocket capabilities, according to an analysis of new satellite photos.
Engine tests for the North's long-range rocket program appear to have taken place in late March or early April of this year, analysts at 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, have concluded.
"They conducted at least one test of an engine for a long-range rocket, and there may have been more," says Joel Wit, a former State Department official who manages the blog and studied the images.
Over the course of several weeks, the images show the appearance of possible fuel tanks, burned vegetation and a seven-car train parked near the rocket assembly building that might have been used to transport equipment and propellants to the test site.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado. Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity.
By Jamie Crawford
Edward Snowden's fate and the possible damage he has done to U.S. relations with close allies still commands attention of the Obama administration.
The situation shows the degree to which "the United States and Europe define privacy in different ways," former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told CNN’s Security Clearance.
That tension was apparent following revelations from Snowden, the admitted leaker of national security documents, that the United States had been using electronic intercepts to monitor various European government offices.
While the threat of international terrorism has decreased over the past decade because of "significant" cooperation between the United States and Europe, Crowley said he is "confident" the situation will eventually "work its way through the political situation on both sides of the Atlantic."
North Korean and Chinese officials have called for the resumption of six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program, Chinese authorities said Wednesday.
The announcement came as North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, was in Beijing for bilateral talks.
Kim and China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui issued statements Wednesday calling for the resumption of the talks to "peacefully solve nuclear issues through dialogue" with all relevant parties.
North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia met last decade to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons program but those meetings had been discontinued.FULL STORY