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Analysis, Diplomacy

North Korea update: Hiding nuclear program and cozying up to China

Reports are that North Korea is trying to hide key elements of its nuclear weapons program.


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Updated: July 2, 2018

Not even a month after the Trump – Kim summit in Singapore, reports suggest that North Korea is making moves to conceal parts of its nuclear weapons program.

US intelligence officials have spotted evidence that points to the communist nation’s unwillingness to fully dismantle its nuclear program while concealing key parts, even as North Korea engages in diplomacy with the US for denuclearization.

The assessment contradicts US President Donald Trump’s remarks that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” following a landmark summit with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore, according to the Korea Herald. 

The evidence collected aims to deceive the United States about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, the officials told the Washington Post.

Noting the source of the report, experts here are interpreting it as a warning from the US to North Korea that the agreement to denuclearize should be implemented honestly, ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s possible visit to Pyongyang.

“There is a possibility that it’s a warning sign to the North Korea that they are and will be aware of such concealments,” a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University said.

“It’s also a push for a more swift progress as the overall delay in process could make room for such tricks,” he added.

Suspicions over North Korea’s commitment to denuclearize has been growing as NBC News also reported over the weekend that Pyongyang has in fact recently been increasing fuel production for nuclear weapons at several hidden sites.

The US network, citing intelligence officials, said North Korea’s regime was preparing to “extract every concession” from the White House rather than relinquishing its nuclear weapons.

The only uranium enrichment facility North Korea has publicly acknowledged is Yongbyon — though reports of secret facilities have surfaced.

North looks to China

Meanwhile, Kim is using the lull in tensions between his country and the west to cozy up to China.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un requested Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help in getting sanctions against Pyongyang lifted as soon as possible during their meeting in Beijing last month.

At the talks on June 19-20, Kim asked his counterpart to cooperate in lifting the sanctions against North Korea because they “have severely battered” his country, according to several sources involved in the China-North Korea meeting.

On June 28, China and Russia distributed the draft of a press statement calling on members of the U.N. Security Council to relax sanctions against North Korea — a move believed to have been made in response to Kim’s request.

Kim also asked Xi to guarantee the security of the North Korean regime and help resolve economic issues facing his country should Washington not give anything in return for Pyongyang’s denuclearization, according to the sources.

A source familiar with China-North Korea relations explained that such a request for security carries the implication that “China will clearly support and defend the regime if the dictatorship is shaken by an influx of information and other factors as it implements economic reforms and opens up its economic system.”

Xi said Beijing “will support Pyongyang’s reform and opening-up policies, and willingly cooperate on various related issues.”

During the meeting with the Chinese leader, Kim described his positive impression of U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he met for the first time at the June summit. “We can talk. He has a big heart,” he said, according to the sources.

Xi, however, apparently tried to temper North Korea’s rapid moves to get closer to the United States. “Rather than being hasty, I hope [North Korea] keeps up negotiations with the United States while continuing consultations with China,” the Chinese leader was quoted as saying.



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About the Author: ANN’s current Chairman is Mr Warren Fernandez, who is also Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times, Singapore. He is the current President of the World Editors Forum.

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