By: Ryan Pickrell
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be pushing ahead with plans for the development of his weapons programs even as the Trump administration insists the young despot understands the need for disarmament.
Kim assured President Donald Trump at the June 12 Singapore summit that North Korea would “work toward” the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but new evidence suggests that the North Korean leader may not intend to follow through on his commitments.
North Korea claims to have dismantled the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, although no investigators or experts were present to verify its destruction. The North has not tested a ballistic missile in seven months, but that does not mean that research and development has come to a halt.
“The nuclear weapons research sector and the rocket industry should mass produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, the power and reliability of which have already been proved to the full, to give a spur to the efforts for deploying them for action,” Kim said in his New Year’s address. The latest intelligence, both government and open source, indicate that North Korea is following instructions.
North Korea is expanding its main solid-fuel missile manufacturing facility — the Chemical Material Institute in Hamhung, The Wall Street Journal reportedSunday, citing an analysis of satellite images by experts at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies.
Kim visited the facility last August to oversee plans for its expansion. Solid-fueled missiles, like the North’s Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile, are problematic because these weapons can be fueled in advance and fired with little to no warning.
The North Koreans have also been producing transporter erector launchers (TEL) and necessary support equipment for the Pukguksong-2, a recent assessment from the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center revealed, according to The Diplomat. Continued TEL production enhances the operational capabilities of this particular weapons system, which was first tested in February.
North Korea has increased the production of fuel for the making of nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months, NBC reported Friday, citing more than a dozen American officials.
Satellite images from June 21 reveal that North Korea has also been making improvements to the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea watchdog 38 North revealed Tuesday.
U.S. intelligence officials believe that North Korea does not intend to surrender its nuclear arsenal, The Washington Post reported Saturday. Instead, officials suspect the North intends to conceal its weapons at secret facilities and deceive the U.S.
These developments appear to undermine the agreement signed at the summit in Singapore, as well as call into question the president’s assertion that North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat.”
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