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US Sends Missile-Spotting Plane to Japan as North Korea Restores Launch Station

© Flickr / Christopher EbdonBoeing RC-135S Cobra Ball I, 61-663 707
Boeing RC-135S Cobra Ball I, 61-663 707 - Sputnik International
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A US reconnaissance aircraft specializing in detecting and collecting information on ballistic missiles arrived at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, Saturday evening.

The US Air Force RC-135S aircraft — more commonly known as a Cobra Ball — arrived at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa over the weekend, Korea's Joong Ang Daily reported. A Twitter account, Aircraft Spots, plotted the plane's journey from Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean that hosts a US naval base, to Japan and estimated the landing to have taken place around 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

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RC-135S aircraft are equipped with different types of advanced cameras to track ballistic missiles and possible warheads.

The reconnaissance plane arrived in Japan on the heels of a recent report from South Korean intelligence officials that North Korea is looking to complete renovations on its Sohae Satellite Launching Station. Joong Ang Daily reported that Suh Hoon, head of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, testified to the National Assembly recently that the North had nearly finished the restoration of the launching station. Nuclear experts have noted that the site has been used again. Suh also added that freight trucks have been spotted in the North's military site near Pyongyang.

All facilities were supposed to be disassembled weeks after North Korea leader Kim Jong Un met with US President Donald Trump in a historic and unprecedented summit in Singapore in June last year. After the summit, Trump announced that the US would cease "provocative" air military exercises in partnership with South Korea. According to a statement released by the White House, Kim had agreed to complete "denuclearization," and the two countries pledged to work together.

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The momentum from the first summit cooled off, however, during the two leaders' most recent meeting in Vietnam. The meeting ended prematurely after the two sides failed to reach a sustainable agreement — specifically, North Korea demanded an end to all sanctions, and the US wished for a full denuclearization of all sites that are capable of developing weapons and, reportedly, for Pyongyang to hand its nuclear weapons and fuel over to the United States.

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