The Media's Brazen Dishonesty About North Korean Nuclear Violations

Authored by Gareth Porter via The American Conservative,

Press irresponsibly relies on single-source report to accuse Kim of breaking an agreement he never made...

In late June and early July, NBC News, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal published stories that appeared at first glance to shed a lurid light on Donald Trump’s flirtation with Kim Jong-un. They contained satellite imagery showing that North Korea was making rapid upgrades to its nuclear weapons complex at Yongbyon and expanding its missile production program just as Trump and Kim were getting chummy at their Singapore summit.

In fact, those media outlets were selling journalistic snake oil. By misrepresenting the diplomatic context of the images they were hyping, the press launched a false narrative around the Trump-Kim summit and the negotiations therein.

The headline of the June 27 NBC News story revealed the network’s political agenda on the Trump-Kim negotiations. “If North Korea is denuclearizing,” it asked, “why is it expanding a nuclear research center?” The piece warned that North Korea “continues to make improvements to a major nuclear facility, raising questions about President Donald Trump’s claim that Kim Jong Un has agreed to disarm, independent experts tell NBC News.”

CNN’s coverage of the same story was even more sensationalist, declaring that there were “troubling signs” that North Korea was making “improvements” to its nuclear facilities, some of which it said had been carried out after the Trump-Kim summit. It pointed to a facility that had produced plutonium in the past and recently undergone an upgrade, despite Kim’s alleged promise to Trump to draw down his nuclear arsenal. CNN commentator Max Boot cleverly spelled out the supposed implication: “If you were about to demolish your house, would you be remodeling the kitchen?”

But in their determination to push hardline opposition to the negotiations, these stories either ignored or sought to discredit the careful caveat accompanying the original source on which they were based - the analysis of satellite images published on the website 38 North on June 21.

The three analysts who had written that the satellite images “indicated that improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace” also cautioned that this work “should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize.”

If the authors’ point was not clear enough, Joel Wit, the founder of 38 North, who helped negotiate the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea and then worked on its implementation for several years, explained to NBC News: 

“What you have is a commitment to denuclearize—we don’t have the deal yet, we just have a general commitment.”

Wit added that he didn’t “find it surprising at all” that work at Yongbyon was continuing.

In a briefing for journalists by telephone on Monday, Wit was even more vigorous in denouncing the stories that had hyped the article on 38 North.

“I really disagree with the media narrative,” Wit said.

“The Singapore summit declaration didn’t mean North Korea would stop its activities in the nuclear and missile area right away.”

He recalled the fact that, during negotiations between the U.S. and the Soviets over arms control, “both sides continued to build weapons until the agreement was completed.”

Determined to salvage its political line on the Trump-Kim talks, NBC News turned to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, who has insisted all along that North Korea won’t give up its nuclear weapons.

“We have never had a deal,” Lewis said. “The North Koreans never offered to give up their nuclear weapons. Never. Not once.”

Lewis had apparently forgotten that the October 2005 Six Party joint statement included language that the DPRK had “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons….”

Another witness NBC found to support its view was James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who declared, “If [the North Koreans] were serious about unilaterally disarming, of course they would have stopped work at Yongbyon.” That was true but misleading, because North Korea has always been unambiguously clear that its offer of denuclearization is conditional on reciprocal steps by the United States.

On July 1, a few days after those stories appeared, the Wall Street Journal headlined, “New satellite imagery indicates Pyongyang is pushing ahead with weapons programs even as it pursues dialogue with Washington.” The lead paragraph called it a “major expansion of a key missile-manufacturing plant.”

But the shock effect of the story itself was hardly seismic. It turns out that the images of a North Korean solid-fuel missile manufacturing facility at Hamhung showed that new buildings had been added beginning in the early spring, after Kim Jong-un had called for more production of solid-fuel rocket engines and warhead tips last August. The construction of the exterior of some buildings was completed “around the time” of the Trump-Kim summit meeting, according to the analysts at the James Martin Center of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

So the most Pyongyang could be accused of was going ahead with a previously planned expansion while it was just beginning to hold talks with the United States.

The satellite images were analyzed by Jeffrey Lewis, the director whom had just been quoted by NBC in support of its viewpoint that North Korea had no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons. So it is no surprise that the Martin Center’s David Schmerler, who also participated in the analysis of the images, told the Journal, “The expansion of production infrastructure for North Korea’s solid missile infrastructure probably suggests that Kim Jong Un does not intend to abandon his nuclear and missile programs.”

But when this writer spoke with Schmerler last week, he admitted that the evidence of Kim’s intentions regarding nuclear and missile programs is much less clear. I asked him if he was sure that North Korea would refuse to give up its ICBM program as part of a broader agreement with the Trump administration. “I’m not sure,” Schmerler responded, adding, “They haven’t really said they’re willing to give up ICBM program.” That is true, but they haven’t rejected that possibility either—presumably because the answer will depend on what commitments Trump is willing to make to the DPRK.

These stories of supposed North Korean betrayal by NBC, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal are egregious cases of distorting news by pushing a predetermined policy line. But those news outlets, far from being outliers, are merely reflecting the norms of the entire corporate news system.

The stories of how North Korea is now violating an imaginary pledge by Kim to Trump in Singapore are even more outrageous, because big media had previously peddled the opposite line: that Kim at the Singapore Summit made no firm commitment to give up his nuclear weapons and that the “agreement” in Singapore was the weakest of any thus far.

That claim, which blithely ignored the fundamental distinction between a brief summit meeting statement and past formal agreements with North Korea that took months to reach, was a media maneuver of unparalleled brazenness. And big media have since topped that feat of journalistic legerdemain by claiming that North Korea has demonstrated bad faith by failing to halt all nuclear and missile-related activities.

A media complex so determined to discredit negotiations with North Korea and so unfettered by political-diplomatic reality seriously threatens the ability of the United States to deliver on any agreement with Pyongyang. That means alternative media must make more aggressive efforts to challenge the corporate press’s coverage.


DaBard51 powow Fri, 07/13/2018 - 21:41 Permalink

"  Lewis had apparently forgotten that the October 2005 Six Party joint statement included language that the DPRK had “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons….”  "


"Trust, but verify." (Old Russian proverb)


When nine hundred years old you become, look this good you will not.

In reply to by powow

Davidduke2000 Fri, 07/13/2018 - 20:58 Permalink

I am not worried about Kim as both Russia and China will protect him. he gave trump a way out of the shenanigans he created  but the media is looking for blood.

For some reason the us media is looking to get nuked and get vaporized into dust. 

DingleBarryObummer Fri, 07/13/2018 - 21:05 Permalink

A media complex so determined to discredit negotiations with North Korea and so unfettered by political-diplomatic reality seriously threatens the ability of the United States to deliver on any agreement with Pyongyang.

I'm not convinced the Legacy Media actually has that kind of power

surf@jm Fri, 07/13/2018 - 21:30 Permalink

If you look at the history of the media in America, in colonial times the newspapers were started by political parties vying for power......

Nothings changed......

They are totally controlled and funded by groups with a particular agenda, be it to push a political narrative, or to sell lots of snake oil for profit.....

And the reason they still radiate their lies, is because a lot of dupes lap it up.....

Itdoesntmatter Fri, 07/13/2018 - 21:47 Permalink

you people are stupidly disgusting...finding a way to defend North Korea to protect the fucktard in fucking low do people who call themselves americans go...fuck me you people are fucking stupid

Itdoesntmatter DeathMerchant Sat, 07/14/2018 - 08:52 Permalink

fuck you people are stupid..."i'm no puppet, you're the puppet"  fucking bitches were criticizing Obama when he said he would meet with dictators, yet defend those dictators when the fucking orange pig meets with don't even recognize your own fucking duplicity...your own fucking cognitive idiots act like the captain of your team is always right, even when they fuck up, or cheat, or do something that you would disagree with one hundred percent, if it was done by the other team.....fucking morons...

In reply to by DeathMerchant

monad Itdoesntmatter Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:01 Permalink

Well, at least you upped your argument from denial and resentment to projection, denial and resentment. Like your fantasy lay Barry, Adolf Hitler ordered his picture hung in the state schools too. You are obviously the messed up product of 8 years of indoctrination by Barry's crazies. You should be resentful, but you're resenting the wrong voices in your head.

In reply to by Itdoesntmatter

roddy6667 Itdoesntmatter Fri, 07/13/2018 - 23:27 Permalink

You know absolutely nothing about North Korea. All you have is the propaganda you consume in the American media, which is a series of hoaxes and outright lies, never corrected. You are not entitled to any opinion on North Korea.

And you are from America, the country that imprisons more of its citizens by number and percentage than ANY OTHER COUNTRY. The conditions in many of these meet the UN definition of torture. You can't even treat a prisoner of war this bad without being guilty of a war crime. Work is mandatory in American prisons.

America executed over 1100 of its own citizens without the benefit of a trial last year.

In reply to by Itdoesntmatter

MuffDiver69 Fri, 07/13/2018 - 21:48 Permalink

Wait a minute...people don’t believe the Fake News. What has this country come to when NBC isn’t’s not like they would fake a gas tank explosion in a pick up truck or something...I’m just glad Rosenstein and Mueller put my faith back into our Justice Department today...who really cares’s all Fake...

Shhh Fri, 07/13/2018 - 22:39 Permalink


Let Us Accelerate Advance of Korean Revolution


 It is the historic review of the Korean revolution that the party strong in faith can never be disorganized and no force can reduce the army and people united with faith to submission.

The slogan "Let's keep the revolutionary faith to the death" upheld by the first generation of the Korean revolution is the eternal motto and guide of victory for the Korean revolutionaries.

We should creditably develop the ongoing all-people's general offensive, the revolutionary advance in the new century of Juche, into a grand advance based on idea and faith and thus fully display the heroic stamina and invincible might of Juche Korea before the world.

We should cherish the immutable faith that we, guided by the respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, are sure to win.

We should usher in a fresh phase of prosperity with our own efforts on all fronts of the socialist economic construction in the same spirit and mettle with which we advanced without even a moment's halt to win the great victory of the line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force despite the unprecedented sanctions and blockade threatening our existence.

Faith means our life and soul, dignity and final victory.

Only victory and glory will always be in store for Juche Korea whose army and people form a fortress of faith around the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and keep the same idea, intention and pace with the Party.

Let us all further accelerate the advance of the Korean revolution with faith in sure victory and optimism and redoubled courage and in high spirits.

ThunderStruck Sat, 07/14/2018 - 01:41 Permalink

The "fake news" pundits at CNN and NBC have spent far too much time lubing up their cocks and fucking each other in the ass and failed to notice the so called "new construction" was not new at all. Either that or they are lying through their teeth on each upstroke of sucking each others cocks...

Chief Joesph Sat, 07/14/2018 - 07:48 Permalink

No one ever holds the MSM feet to the fire about honesty.  They use and abuse the first amendment to make a buck off of you, and that is why they want to keep the press "free".  Never mind honesty, or their own political biases.  And, of course, if they are publishing to the dumb and gullible masses, honesty doesn't seem to really matter anyway. How would they ever know the difference?

North Korea is such an easy target for MSM to raise the fear factor, because of North Korea's isolationism, and very few Americans have ever been there to know much about it.  But notice, MSM rarely ever broadcast anything about how poorly we Americans and our economy are doing, for fear of striking turmoil and panic back home, and upsetting the Deep State that feeds and supports them.