New satellite photos show that
Kim Jong Un
is continuing to develop his nuclear weapons program, and U.S. intelligence sources say they believe North Korea has increased its production of nuclear fuel at multiple sites. This wasn’t supposed to happen after the Donald Trump-Kim summit last month in Singapore.
According to an analysis by experts at the Stimson Center in Washington, North Korea has improved the cooling system of its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon. Activity also continues at a nearby building where plutonium is extracted from spent fuel, and staining on the roof of another building suggests the North is enriching weapons-grade uranium using centrifuges. U.S. intelligence sources essentially confirmed this news by telling news agencies last week that the North has been increasing its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
After the June 12 summit with Kim, President Trump said that he trusts the young dictator and expects him to start fulfilling his promise to denuclearize immediately. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Mr. Trump tweeted the next day.
Secretary of State
says the President meant the threat from North Korea has been reduced. But the photos of Yongbyon show that isn’t true. Though the North stopped firing missiles and testing warheads, it can produce more weapons of mass destruction. The White House has declined to comment on the intelligence reports.
Part of the problem is that Mr. Trump didn’t get Kim to commit to a timeline for denuclearization, and Mr. Pompeo says the U.S. will not press for one. The President also failed to get the North to commit to giving the U.S. a complete list of its nuclear facilities. The U.S. could then check the list against intelligence to see if the North is being honest. Kim may now be exploiting these missed opportunities. Kim promised to dismantle a missile-testing facility at Sohae, but there’s no evidence he is doing so.
Even if there were a timeline for denuclearization, North Korea might not follow it for long. Kim’s father and grandfather reneged on every denuclearization deal they signed. But at least the U.S. could use missed deadlines to make a case for new sanctions at the United Nations Security Council.
The Administration’s best chance of convincing Kim to give up his nukes was the “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. But China loosened its enforcement after the summit, allowing smugglers to move goods across the border, as Mr. Trump has acknowledged. The North will exploit loopholes in the existing sanctions to earn more hard currency from slave labor.
The continuing nuclear-fuel production suggests the North will follow its traditional pattern of dragging out open-ended talks for as long as possible and extracting new U.S. concessions at every step along the way.
The activity at Yongbyon shows that Kim has pocketed the carrot of a presidential summit without taking steps to denuclearize. If Mr. Trump doesn’t call him on it, Kim will conclude he can keep getting away with it.