Intelligence Agencies Report That North Korea Plans to 'Deceive Washington' While It Builds More Missiles

In Singapore, Donald Trump met alone with dictator Kim Jung Un before signing a document that had no dates, no details, no guidelines for ending the buildup of nuclear weapons in North Korea. Since Trump returned from that trip to tell America to “sleep well,” North Korea has expanded production of nuclear materials and improved facilities for building missiles. Now satellite imagery and intelligence reports show that North Korea is adding to its arsenal of ICBMs that can reach distant targets with new weapons underway at the Sanumdong research facility outside Pyongyang. 

As the Washington Post reports, the new missiles don’t necessarily show an expansion of North Korea’s missile program, but they do indicate that since Trump stated that the authoritarian state was “no longer a nuclear threat,” North Korea has continued with the programs to build and deploy additional nuclear weapons. Projects that were underway before the summit continue to move forward. 

Intelligence reports also state that North Korean officials intend to “deceive Washington about the number of nuclear warheads and missiles” and to also fool international inspectors while hiding some of their facilities.

Their strategy includes potentially asserting that they have fully denuclearized by declaring and disposing of 20 warheads while retaining dozens more.

The website 38 North, dedicated to looking at security policy issues concerning North Korea, did note a positive step last week when satellite imagery indicated that North Korea had begun dismantling some structures at the Sohae satellite launching station, the site from which North Korea has previously launched satellites as well as conducted engine tests for ICBMs. And 38 North is also skeptical concerning reports of “secret uranium processing facilities” that have emerged over the last month. However, their site has also confirmed continuing improvements at both plutonium processing and solid rocket production facilities.

Some of the sites around North Korea are well known, and their continued use and expansion is an obvious sign that North Korea is not yet making any serious moves to cut back production or deployment of nuclear weapons. However, just as in the case of all the supposed chemical and biological weapons sites in Iraq, US intelligence agencies have in the past declared that certain sites within North Korea were secret nuclear facilities, when further investigation showed less threatening answers.

It’s not clear that North Korea has moved on to a new era of being extra deceptive … because the current levels of deceptions seem to have been serving it well. Kim has developed the nuclear weapons he believes he needs to prevent his regime following the pattern of Libya or Iraq. In the post-summit atmosphere, North Korea has received a much higher level of recognition than in the past, and even if North Korea makes no moves to fulfill the vaguely worded agreement signed in Singapore, it seems unlikely that the United States will be able to muster a continued, universal blockade of North Korean trade.

North Korea got respect, trade, and weapons, and now they appear to be going on as if Singapore put no restrictions on them. Which is exactly what might be expected.

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