Terry H. Schwadron
July 2, 2018
Well, that didn’t take long.
U.S. intelligence agencies are reporting that rather than destroying its nuclear facilities, North Korea is expanding some of them and acting to hide weaponsand secret production facilities, according to reports from The Washington Post and NBC News.
Even as President Donald Trump goes out of his way at rallies and public events to announce that he, personally, got North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to agree to destroy its nuclear stockpile, new intelligence now is saying something quite different.
The news agencies quote U.S. intelligence officials as determining that since the June 12 summit in Singapore, there is new satellite and other evidence that suggests that North Korea is moving to deceive the United States about the number of nuclear warheads it has as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make material for nuclear bombs.
The Post said the findings support a new, previously undisclosed Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize. Clearly that is the opposite of Trump’s over-the-top celebratory statements after signing a 200-word general agreement with the North Korean leader.
At the time, critics and supporters alike noted that there were no details offered, no verifiable measures, no inspections, just words. Congress members and experts of all shape and size have noted that North Korea has a long history of saying one thing and doing another. They also noted that getting a verifiable de-nuclearization program accomplished in the isolated and mountainous areas of North Korea would be difficult.
The new intelligence was described by four officials who have seen it or received briefings who insisted on anonymity, both news outlets said, adding that the intelligence was new since the summit. The Post and NBC said they were withholding some details at the request of those officials.
John Bolton, the president’s National Security Adviser, told CBS:”There’s nobody involved in this discussion with North Korea in the administration who is overburdened by naïveté. We’ve seen how the North Koreans have behaved before. The President’s been very clear. He is not going to make mistakes of prior administrations. We are going to pursue this, and we will see what happens.”
NBC said it talked with a dozen analysts at the CIA and other intelligenceagencies who see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the United States while clinging to nuclear weapons. According to NBC, while the North Koreans have stopped missile and nuclear tests, “there’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” said one U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S.”
The latest U.S. intelligence assessment concludes that there is more than one secret site, officials told NBC News. Specifically, the DIA has concluded that North Korean officials are exploring ways to deceive Washington about the number of nuclear warheads and missiles, and the types and numbers of facilities they have, believing that the United States is not aware of the full range of their activities, wrote The Post. Some U.S. intelligence officials have for at least a year believed that the number of warheads is about 65, but North Korean officials are suggesting that they declare far fewer.
The lone uranium-enrichment facility that has been acknowledged by North Korea is in Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang. That site is estimated to have produced material for as many as a couple of dozen warheads. The North Koreans also have operated a secret underground uranium enrichment site known as Kangson, with twice the capacity of Yongyon. U.S. intelligence agencies became aware of the nuclear facility in 2010.
NBC and 38north, a website devoted to analyzing North Korea, said that North Korea continues to make improvements to a major nuclear facility at Yonbyon. An annotated satellite image shows what the web site 38north says is pipeline connecting new
In recent years, the United States has sought to improve imagery and computer hacking in in North Korea. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined requests for comment.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has acknowledged that it could take years to implement any agreement on eliminating North Korea’s nuclear stockpile, a hard-won asset that North Korean leaders regard as a guarantee for their survival.
Asked about Trump’s claim that the North Korea threat had been eliminated, Pompeo said Trump had meant to say only that the threat had been reduced. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” he said. While North Korea made a public show in June of demolishing the country’s main nuclear weapons test site, there has been little public evidence of efforts to dismantle scores of other sites linked to production of nuclear and chemical weapons and delivery systems.
If it is all as these U.S. intelligence officers say, Trump should stop talking about his success and start worrying about getting a substantive agreement in place. Perhaps he should postpone poking China over trade while lining up their support and Russia’s for a nuclear-free Korea.
If we know anything about Trump, it is that he would hate to be the object of ridicule for allowing himself to be used by Kim for a sham photo op rather than what he believes to be a real step for peace.
Mostly, this is a test for bigtime truth-telling across the negotiating table.