The limits of North Korea's media openness
April 12th, 2012
03:08 PM ET

The limits of North Korea's media openness

By Adam Levine

North Korea's opening of its launch pad to journalists has been a boon to North Korea watchers who have relied mostly on satellite imagery to take stock of the country's progress in developing long range missile and rocket capability. The flood of still photos and video have helped shape their understanding of what North Korea is up to.

"It is almost like a painting of the entire site," said Allison Puccioni, an analyst with IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. "I think we are learning a lot about North Korea."

The closeup shots have allowed Puccioni to get a better sense of the dimensions of the rocket program and of the facilities.

The shot further confirm that "the facility was built for a rocket probably a good deal larger than the actual Unha-3 that is being launched," Puccioni said in an interview with CNN.

The fuel housing buildings are much larger than the ones at an older North Korean facility that launched rockets similar in size to the one currently on the launch pad, she said.

The launch tower facility holding the current rocket is about 50% larger than the rocket itself, Puccioni said, adding it "almost looks like a little kid wearing a big kids clothes."

DigitalGlobe's Joseph Bermudez said the ground level access has "certainly helped" confirm what he is seeing from the skies. Bermudez is a senior analyst for the satellite imagery company and has been studying North Korea for 30 years.

"There is an innate fascination with any ground imagery from North Korea because it is so rare," Bermudez told CNN.

Both Bermudez and Puccioni said it was very telling what North Korea left in and what they left out of the journalists' tour.

"They are really trying to show the media that it is a peaceful operation, but the attempts are facile," said Puccioni. It was "pretty curated and carefully choreographed."

Recent satellite imagery shows the regime tore down military barracks ahead of the journalists' tour, she said.

"They are going to call it beautification, but it was a deliberate attempt" to change the image, she said. "You can't demilitarize North Korea."
Bermudez too noted that the tour gave a unique view, but not the whole picture. He said the journalists were taken into what they were told was the mission command center but the pictures he saw from inside only bolstered his impression that they were not seeing everything.

Based on satellite imagery he has viewed during the construction, the building is actually meant for checking out the satellite and loading it into the missile component that will carry the satellite into space. Bermudez said he could see that on the ceiling of the command center there were cranes.

"You don't have those cranes in a building that is just a control center," said Bermudez.

Tim Brown, an analyst with, observed that the stream of photographs and video taken by journalists at the launch pad site this weekend was pay-dirt for North Korea watchers.

"Previously, we have had to view the new launch site from 200 miles up with imaging satellites hurtling at 4 miles per second. Obeying the laws of Kepler, they are over the site for a few seconds at a time, arriving and departing at the same time of day, once every three days," he said in a posting on Global Security.

"With this "ground truth" image, we no longer have to squint at satellite images, trying to guess the height of the Unha-3 missile," he said. "It is about 29.5 meters, plus or minus 5%. We can see clearly that there are four movable service platforms, each with four levels, one either side of the rocket. The movable launch pad is about 2.5 meters high."

The photos show that the crane on top of the tower is pretty much the same type of crane you see on top of buildings during construction, Brown said. Closeup shots of the rocket show gray panels that are likely antennae to transmit telemetry.

A former military imagery analyst, writing on, a site run by Johns Hopkins University, agrees that the new photos and video reveal North Korea has plans for a bigger rocket or missile. A South Korean paper reported earlier this month of a new 40-meter missile spied by satellites. U.S. sources questioned whether it was anything more than a mock-up.

But the new images indicate the North Koreans have room to grow at their launch facility, said the analyst Nick Hansen. Hansen writes that analyzing recent photos and satellite images suggests Kim Jong-Un's regime "is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile with longer range and greater capabilities than the one scheduled for testing this week."

"The Unha-3 rocket is set on a 7-meter high mobile launch platform. The 30-meter long rocket comes up to the second level of the fourth set of work platforms, leaving about 10 meters of the tower, enough to accommodate the reported new 40-meter rocket," Hansen wrote.

Hansen points to other clues including a satellite image from 2008 that shows a plug for the mobile launch pad that can reduce the size of the hole through which the rocket blast will fire to accommodate the Unha-3. But the actual hole is much bigger and Hansen noted "the plug can be removed to accommodate a larger rocket."

A 2006 satellite image taken during the launch area construction shows storage tanks in nearby buildings "greatly exceed what would be needed to fuel the rocket for this week's launch." Hansen noted the same is true of a nearby rocket engine test stand that appears designed to "fire larger, higher energy engines than the facility at the" the old launch site.

Hansen observed that none of this is "definitive" because "North Korea's WMD programs is scarce, even for governments watching Pyongyang closely." But he added that all the new images add pieces to the puzzle gives "a rare glimpse into Pyongyang's future plans as it moves down the road to becoming a small nuclear power, a development that has major implications for international peace and security."

This DigitalGlobe satellite image from April 12, 2012 showing a lot of activity on the launch pad

It also only gave journalists a brief of glimpse into the activity. A new image collected by DigitalGlobe on Wednesday shows significantly more activity which Bermudez said is "indicative of activity immediately pre-launch."

Post by:
Filed under: Asia • North Korea • Satellite imagery
soundoff (328 Responses)
  1. pharmaceptica


    June 29, 2021 at 12:11 am | Reply

    tadalafil peptide

    June 27, 2021 at 7:22 am | Reply
  3. pharmacepticacom

    where to buy sildenafil citrate online

    June 27, 2021 at 2:23 am | Reply

    157579 446754If you have been injured as a result of a defective IVC Filter, you ought to contact an experienced attorney practicing in medical malpractice cases, specifically someone with experience in these lawsuits. 517105

    June 26, 2021 at 7:56 am | Reply

    where to buy sildenafil canada

    June 26, 2021 at 6:17 am | Reply
  6. pharmaceptica

    tadalafil vs cialis reviews

    June 25, 2021 at 12:01 pm | Reply

    erectile injection video

    June 25, 2021 at 11:01 am | Reply
  8. arvest central mortgage co

    359754 699389Good V I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs and related information ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. 902764

    June 25, 2021 at 8:04 am | Reply

    Best view i have ever seen !

    June 21, 2021 at 8:29 pm | Reply

    chloroquine phosphate side effects

    June 21, 2021 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  11. pharmaceptica

    erectile disorder mayo clinic

    June 21, 2021 at 12:15 am | Reply
  12. clonidine

    hydroxy cloroquin chloroquine diphosphate what is hydroxychloroquine used for arthritis

    June 8, 2021 at 11:50 am | Reply
  13. chloroquine generic

    hydroxychloroquine 200 mg twice a day buy aralen online uk hydroxichlorine

    June 8, 2021 at 12:32 am | Reply
  14. aralen buy online

    hydrochloroquine chloroquine side effects chloroquine plaquenil

    June 7, 2021 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  15. hydroxychloroquine bnf

    chloroquinolone 20201023 chloroquine phosphate vs chloroquine sulphate

    June 7, 2021 at 3:28 am | Reply
  16. hydroxyquinoline

    chloroquine hydroxychloroquine sulfate oral chloroquine moa

    June 6, 2021 at 11:15 am | Reply
  17. cialis without prescription

    tadalafil com generic cialis tadalafil tadalis sx 20 mg ajanta pharma

    June 6, 2021 at 1:08 am | Reply
  18. cialis generic

    tadalafil tablets ip cialis generic cost tadalafil generic

    June 5, 2021 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  19. cheapest tadalafil cost

    tadalis sx side effects for tadalafil tadalafil 10mg

    June 5, 2021 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  20. cheap cialis pills for sale

    erectafil-5 cialis without prescription tadalafil effects

    June 5, 2021 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  21. vardenafil vs tadalafil

    prescription tadalafil online is tadalafil and cialis the same thing tadalafil goodrx

    June 5, 2021 at 11:28 am | Reply
  22. research chemicals tadalafil

    tadalafil pah tadalafil vs cialis reviews tadalafil citrate

    June 4, 2021 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  23. tendances du coronavirus - france

    chloronique hydroxychloroquine where to buy chloroquine phosphate side effects

    June 4, 2021 at 8:53 am | Reply
  24. Daron Kerne

    Grow a second income™

    May 31, 2021 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  25. tadalafil tablets

    tadifil procalis

    May 28, 2021 at 5:50 am | Reply
  26. apposyattance

    tadalafil side effects what is tadalafil buy tadalis generic cialis online fast shipping

    May 27, 2021 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  27. CleplePewCred

    cialis without a prescription tadalafil generic buy cialis pills generic cialis tadalafil – tadalafil generic where to buy

    May 27, 2021 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  28. Greryclilteta side effects of tadalafil – tadalafil generic where to buy buy tadalafil

    May 27, 2021 at 10:04 am | Reply
  29. apposyattance tadalafil brands tadalafil buy cialis pills where to buy tadalafil on line

    May 27, 2021 at 4:14 am | Reply
  30. spearfDrore

    cialis cost – tadalafil brands lowest price cialis generic cialis tadalafil

    May 26, 2021 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  31. brimonidine

    combigan generic prices buy combigan online

    May 26, 2021 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  32. Greryclilteta buy generic cialis online with mastercard – tadalafil cost in canada cialis at canadian pharmacy

    May 26, 2021 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  33. CleplePewCred

    where to buy generic cialis online safely tadalafil drug buy tadalafil tadalafil side effects

    May 26, 2021 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  34. apposyattance

    tadalafil side effects best price usa tadalafil canada generic tadalafil where to order tadalafil tablets

    May 26, 2021 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  35. combigan

    buy generic brimonidine brimonidine side effects

    May 26, 2021 at 11:35 am | Reply
  36. Greryclilteta

    what is tadalafil prescription tadalafil online cialis without prescription tadalafil side effects – buy tadalis

    May 26, 2021 at 11:35 am | Reply
  37. apposyattance

    where to buy tadalafil on line what is tadalafil tadalafil liquid cialis tadalafil

    May 26, 2021 at 9:25 am | Reply
  38. avanafil

    buy avanafil canada avanafil india

    May 26, 2021 at 3:25 am | Reply
  39. spearfDrore

    where to buy cialis without prescription tadalafil liquid tadalafil online with out prescription cheapest tadalafil cost

    May 25, 2021 at 11:23 pm | Reply
  40. CleplePewCred

    cost tadalafil generic tadalafil side effects tadalafil daily online

    May 25, 2021 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  41. avana

    avanafil vs cialis avanafil vs cialis

    May 25, 2021 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  42. apposyattance tadalafil online with out prescription – canada generic tadalafil cialis without prescription

    May 25, 2021 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  43. Greryclilteta tadalafil drug best price usa tadalafil tadalafil order online no prescription tadalafil

    May 25, 2021 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  44. spearfDrore

    where to buy tadalafil on line tadalafil online with out prescription tadalafil cost walmart cost tadalafil generic

    May 25, 2021 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  45. apposyattance

    tadalafil goodrx – cheap cialis pills for sale tadalafil order online no prescription cost of cialis canada generic tadalafil

    May 25, 2021 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  46. brimonidine

    combigan coupon combigan eye drops

    May 25, 2021 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  47. keespamebpaxy

    cost tadalafil generic – what is tadalafil buy tadalis side effects for tadalafil tadalafil daily online

    May 25, 2021 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  48. apposyattance

    buy cialis pills buy tadalis tadalafil online with out prescription where to order tadalafil tablets

    May 25, 2021 at 4:34 am | Reply
  49. CleplePewCred

    tadalafil generic tadalafil side effects cheap cialis pills for sale canada generic tadalafil

    May 24, 2021 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  50. spearfDrore

    tadalafil cialis – prescription tadalafil online tadalafil order online no prescription buy tadalis

    May 24, 2021 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  51. apposyattance

    generic tadalafil from uk where to buy generic cialis online safely tadalafil dosage buy cialis pills – tadalafil generic

    May 24, 2021 at 11:43 am | Reply
  52. Greryclilteta tadalafil order online no prescription best price usa tadalafil generic cialis tadalafil tadalafil generic

    May 24, 2021 at 11:22 am | Reply
  53. cyclosporine

    cyclosporine for humans cyclosporine pharmacology

    May 24, 2021 at 7:32 am | Reply
  54. apposyattance

    tadalafil cialis – tadalafil liquid cialis at canadian pharmacy cost tadalafil generic

    May 24, 2021 at 6:06 am | Reply
  55. CleplePewCred

    tadalafil goodrx best price usa tadalafil cialis at canadian pharmacy tadalafil cialis – generic cialis online fast shipping

    May 24, 2021 at 5:00 am | Reply
  56. brimonidine

    buy brimonidine online combigan side effects

    May 24, 2021 at 2:19 am | Reply
  57. CleplePewCred

    side effects of tadalafil cialis tadalafil cheap generic cialis for sale buy tadalis

    May 23, 2021 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  58. brimonidine

    combigan cost combigan bottle sizecombigan

    May 23, 2021 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  59. apposyattance tadalafil – where to buy tadalafil on line tadalafil brands

    May 23, 2021 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  60. chloroquineorigin

    resochin – aralen where to buy clonidin buy chloroquine phosphate raoult coronavirus

    May 23, 2021 at 10:28 am | Reply
  61. cyclomune

    cyclomune cyclomune 0.1% eye drops

    May 23, 2021 at 6:02 am | Reply
  62. chloroquineorigin

    clonidin arechin malaraquin hcq

    May 20, 2021 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  63. 먹튀검증사이트

    Hello! This can be my to start with take a look at towards your blog! We are a bunch of volunteers and commencing a completely new initiative in a Local community in the identical area of interest

    May 20, 2021 at 9:39 am | Reply
  64. brimonidine

    combigan eye drops generic buy combigan online

    May 20, 2021 at 6:27 am | Reply
  65. cyclomune

    cyclomune eye drops 1% cyclosporine cost

    May 20, 2021 at 4:18 am | Reply
  66. storno brzinol

    Whats Going down i'm new to this, I stumbled upon this I've discovered It positively helpful and it has aided me out loads. I'm hoping to contribute & help other customers like its aided me. Good job.

    May 16, 2021 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  67. avana

    avana tablet avanafil 50mg

    May 16, 2021 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  68. avanafil

    avanafil buy avanafil india

    May 16, 2021 at 6:49 pm | Reply
  69. Darin Pallansch

    Well said Bryan, well said 🙂

    May 16, 2021 at 8:45 am | Reply
  70. stornobrzinol

    Your home is valueble for me. Thanks!…

    May 15, 2021 at 10:19 pm | Reply
  71. stornobrzinol

    Hey there, You've done a great job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I'm confident they'll be benefited from this website.

    May 13, 2021 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  72. Ernie Hollenshead

    ¡Es genial escuchar a otro miembro satisfecho, Martin! ¿Esperas que tu negocio de Internet muestre signos de éxito? 🙂

    May 13, 2021 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  73. chloroquine phosphate tablets

    chloroguine chroloquine

    May 6, 2021 at 6:35 am | Reply
  74. dapoxetine

    priligy 60 mg priligy tablets

    May 6, 2021 at 12:50 am | Reply

    Best view i have ever seen !

    May 5, 2021 at 6:05 am | Reply
  76. dapoxetine

    priligy pills for sale priligy tablets uk

    May 5, 2021 at 12:21 am | Reply
  77. priligy

    dapoxetine priligy pills for sale

    May 4, 2021 at 11:55 am | Reply
  78. hydroxychloroquine plaquenil

    chloroquine phosphate vs chloroquine sulphate chloroquine amazon

    May 3, 2021 at 5:28 am | Reply
  79. best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills

    average perscription pills taken by 65 year old canadian? canadian diet pills

    May 2, 2021 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  80. canada pharmacies viagra

    best viagra pills 25 mg canada pharmacy viagra in canada

    May 2, 2021 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  81. counterfeit canadian drugs cialis

    buying canadian cialis canadian pharmacy for cialis

    May 2, 2021 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  82. how to buy teva sob for viagra in canada

    canada viagra buy viagra from canada?

    May 2, 2021 at 4:09 am | Reply
  83. buy generic cialis, canadian

    canadian pharmacy for cialis canadian pharmacy no perscription generic cialis

    May 2, 2021 at 12:44 am | Reply
  84. canadian pharmacy cialis without prescription

    canadian pharmacy cialis without prescription canadian generic cialis 20mg

    May 1, 2021 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  85. average perscription pills taken by 65 year old canadian?

    canadian pills pharmacy canadian weight loss pills

    May 1, 2021 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  86. avana

    buy avanafil uk avanafil cost

    April 30, 2021 at 12:17 am | Reply
  87. impotence

    erectile disorder treatment erectile bands

    April 29, 2021 at 5:17 pm | Reply
1 2 3

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.