A lot of work went into getting President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in the same room last month.
Months of mostly meaningless gestures, such as North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics, followed by more substantial concessions, i.e. America’s canceling of annual military drills with the South, finally landed the two leaders at the historic summit.
Unfortunately, in the two weeks following the meeting, reports have emerged indicating that Kim may have been less than sincere in committing to curb his nuclear weapons program.
In a recent assessment, U.S. intelligence sources confirmed they believe DPRK is still at work expanding its nuclear capabilities. The intelligence gathered by agencies indicates that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months.
Contrary to Trump’s ample optimism (there is “no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea were Trump’s words following Singapore), the CIA and other intelligence agencies see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration.
This position certainly aligns with those of skeptics. From the start, many have been critical of reconciliation, claiming that the apparent willingness of Kim to cooperate with the U.S. was a sham, an elaborate scheme to gain concessions from the U.S. and South Korea.
Additionally, an important non-governmental organization has stepped in with intelligence undermining the whole diplomatic process with North Korea.
The research group 38 North (a reference to the Korean War-era 38th parallel) is an operation of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. It is dedicated to offering balanced analysis on North Korea and the significance of the country’s activities vis-à-vis the international community. 38 North’s comments are refreshing in that they offer somber perspectives on issues that are often both murky and inflammatory. They also tend to undermine governmental assessments on the Korean Peninsula.
38 North was the first to show DPRK was not making good on its pledge to begin disarmament following the June summit. Now, the group has produced evidence that not only is North Korea slow on the dismantling, they are also expanding several important nuclear-related facilities. According to recent satellite imagery gleaned by the organization, improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a “rapid pace.”
The possibility that North Korea’s actions until this point have been one big show certainly needs to be taken into account. We should hope that the Trump administration remains vigilant about the situation on the ground in North Korea and isn’t simply satisfied with the promises of the Kim regime regarding nuclear diplomacy.