SATELLITE photos appear to suggest North Korea is preparing to launch a new submarine missile just as Donald Trump talked up his relationship with Kim Jong-un.
Pyongyang has been stepping up its provocative behaviour in recent months as talks seems to have completed stalled between Kim and the West.
US think tank The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published pictures on its website of North Korea's shipyard in Sinpo.
It appeared to show several vessels which have previously been used to tow a testing barge out to sea for submarine missiles.
CSISexperts said the activity was "suggestive, but not conclusive" of preparations to fire a Pukguksong-3 submarine launched ballistic missile.
It comes as just hours earlier US President Trump had been talking up his relationship with Kim – which has become a linchpin of selling his foreign policy successes.
He bragged that when he was elected pundits were predicting he would be at war with North Korea within a week.
Trump said: "In the meantime, we've gotten along with them. We didn't get to war."
The launch was considered by experts to be the most provocative since Kim and Trump opened talks in 2018.
Other pictures released by the think tank also show two Romeo-class submarines at Mayang-do submarine base.
The boats, originally designed by the Soviet Union, are 1,830 tons and 250 ft long and are armed with torpedoes and mines.
North Korea previously tested one of the submarine based-weapons last October.
The weapon flew 280 miles and reached an altitude of 565 miles, with South Korea's military saying the missile appears to have a range of 800 miles.
North Korea has not tested a long-range missile or carried out a nuclear test since 2017, but has completed a number of smaller scale launches.
Trump has been attempting to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but it looks like Kim won't budge.
The US State Department and the Pentagon have not yet commented on the apparent weapons test preparations.
'TRUMP WON'T CARE'
Vipin Narang, a non-proliferation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote on Twitter: "North Korea already tested a PKS-3 SLBM last October.
"And it didn’t cross Trump’s redline then, and is unlikely to this time. Trump won't care."
It comes as relations with North Korea's neighbour South Korea have frosted over again after an optimistic thaw.
Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong is now believed to be heading up policy on how to deal with the US and the South.
She is believed to have been behind the destruction of a highly symbolic diplomatic office in the border town of Kaesong.
Her new position comes amid ongoing rumours of Kim's poor health, with some claiming he has recently been in a coma or is struggling to walk.
Meanwhile, North Korea is believed to be preparing its troops ahead of a large military parade in October.
Such parades normally attract huge crowds – and Kim appears to pressing on despite the threat from the coronavirus pandemic.
However, analysts at 38 North said preparations for the event appear to have been delayed possibly due to anti-pandemic measures or recent severe weather.
In recent months, North Korea appears to have constructed around 100 permanent garages at the Mirim site, making it nearly impossible to observe what vehicles might be involved, the report said.
"That said, numerous tyre tracks in the newly concreted area servicing the garages indicate heavy activity has taken place in and around the garages," 38 North added.
North Korea has used such parades to showcases its growing arsenal of ballistic missiles – but have not done so since it entered talks with Trump.
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