North Korea is reportedly expanding a key nuclear missile manufacturing facility, less than a month after Kim Jong Un’s summit with Trump, where he agreed to move toward denuclearization.
Satellite images showing the nuclear facility expansion come as no surprise after Trump and Kim’s agreement was widely criticized for being vague. However, it was a surprise to Trump, who strutted back into the U.S. after the summit bragging.
The satellite images were obtained from San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc. and analyzed by researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. The images of the nuclear facility reveal that North Korea is in no way working toward denuclearization but rather, working quickly to expand their nuclear powers. The facility is used to build solid-fuel ballistic missiles that can be launched quickly. These missiles are much less vulnerable than liquid-fuel rockets when it comes to preemptive strikes. Former CIA analyst and North Korea expert at the Heritage Foundation Bruce Klingner told NBC:
The observed activity appears inconsistent with a North Korean intent to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. There seems little reason to continue expansion plans if the regime intended to dismantle them as would be required under a denuclearization agreement.
These new images come after 38North revealed last week that North Korea was also making improvements on its main nuclear research facility, Yongbyon. On Saturday, unnamed U.S. intelligence officials concluded that North Korea has no intention of surrendering its nuclear capabilities but instead, plans to “conceal the number of weapons it has and secret facilities.” It wont be the first time North Korea has hidden nuclear production from the U.S. In 2010, U.S. intelligence agencies became aware of an underground uranium enrichment site called Kangson.
Basically, North Korea is continuing to lie to the U.S. as it always has, despite Trump’s hopes that he could smooth-talk them into denuclearization. However, while the U.S. cancels key military exercises with South Korea upon the request of Kim, North Korea is expanding and improving their nuclear forces.
The White House has declined to comment on the new satellite images. However, White House national security advisor John Bolton spoke on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday and claimed that North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear weapons could be dismantled within a year. He said:
If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they are cooperative, we can move very quickly. And it is to North Korea’s advantage to dismantle very quickly. Then the elimination of sanctions, aid by South Korea and Japan and others can all begin to flower.
When asked about the Washington Post’s report that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize, Bolton declined to comment. However, he did say the administration is:
... very well aware of North Korea’s patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States. We know exactly what the risks are, of them using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programs, ballistic missiles. The president would like to see these discussions move promptly to get a resolution.
Trump also made a Sunday television appearance on Fox Businesses, where he seemed less confident about the agreement with North Korea. When talking about his summit with Kim, he said, “I made a deal with him, I shook hands with him, I really believe he means it.” However, when it comes to that deal falling through, he went on to say, “Now, is it possible? Have I been in deals, have you been in things where people didn’t work out? It’s possible.”