In what appears to be the latest indication that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's talk about abandoning the country's nuclear arsenal is disingenuous, US intelligence believes Kim has increased nuclear enrichment activities at several "secret" facilities in recent months, even after securing a major concession from the US and South Korea to cancel their upcoming joint military exercises.
According to NBC News, the intelligence assessment appears to contradict President Trump's declaration that the North is "no longer a nuclear threat," and analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies agree.
Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
Instead, the intelligence community sees the North's overtures as part of a scheme to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration, while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival. Notably, the report comes just two weeks after the historic Singapore summit that produced a vague agreement between the two sides to "work toward" denuclearization.
While the North has stopped its nuclear tests, its enrichment activities have only accelerated.
In recent months, even as the two sides engaged in diplomacy, North Korea was stepping up its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, five U.S. officials say, citing the latest intelligence assessment. North Korea and the U.S. agreed at the summit to "work toward" denuclearization, but there is no specific deal. On Trump's order, the U.S. military canceled training exercises on the Korean peninsula, a major concession to Kim.
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."
Four other officials familiar with the intelligence assessment also said North Korea intended to deceive the U.S.
While the US has long been aware of North Korea's enrichment facility at Yongbyon, as well as a second "secret" enrichment site that the US government has declined to name for security reasons, it appears satellites have discovered a second "secret" site where enrichment activities appear to be ongoing.
Satellite photos purport to show unusual movement at the facility that would suggest enrichment is continuing.
Courtesy of 38 North
While the the missile and nuclear tests have stopped, "there's no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production," one anonymous US official told NBC News. "There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S."
Courtesy of 38 North
To be sure, the Trump administration has already walked back the "not a nuclear threat" line, after Mike Pompeo told lawmakers on Wednesday that the North remains a nuclear threat, according to the Hill.
Courtesy of 38 North
Still, the findings underscore a belief that's widely held by national security strategists, including Harry Kazianis, the director of the Center for the National Interest think tank, who told the Hill that "there is no way North Korea will ever give up its nuclear weapons - ever."
He argued that the latest satellite imagery is evidence that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, which it has long seen as key to its survival.
"Since the summit we have learned that North Korea is looking for one thing only from the Trump administration: nuclear acceptance, not disarmament," Kazianis said.
But while Trump made significant concessions during the Singapore Summit, he also reaped several important (to Trump) benefits: Namely, a lift in his poll numbers that he's hoping to extend with next month's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And of course, all of these 'Trump-Kim Summit success'-busting headlines are coming from the same intel agencies who are "all" convinced Trump won because Russia colluded to fix the election - and we note that 38 North - the organization that provided and analyzed the satellite images - had this to say "Continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize."