It looks as if North Korea isn’t turning over a new leaf after all. Last month when Trump held a summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two leaders signed a document signaling a commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The chief points of concern on the U.S. side were a) North Korea had set off what may have been a hydrogen bomb and b) it had missiles capable of reaching nearly all of the United States. Here’s a graphic showing the range from AFP:
— John Saeki (@JohnSaeki) November 29, 2017
There haven’t been any more missile tests since the summit, but the Washington Post reports U.S. spy agencies see evidence the country is currently working on building at least one new ICBM:
U.S. spy agencies are seeing signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, according to officials familiar with the intelligence.
Newly obtained evidence, including satellite photos taken in recent weeks, indicates that work is underway on at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs at a large research facility in Sanumdong, on the outskirts of Pyongyang, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe classified intelligence…
Buttressing the intelligence findings, independent missile experts this week also reported observing activity consistent with missile construction at the Sanumdong plant. The daily movement of supply trucks and other vehicles, as captured by commercial satellite photos, shows that the missile facility “is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. The Monterey, Calif., nonprofit group analyzed commercial photos obtained from the satellite imagery firm Planet.
Late last month, the Post reported that new intelligence gathered after the summit suggest North Korea’s real plan was to simply lie about denuclearization and hold on to its nukes. Let’s face it, that’s what most of us suspected would happen anyway:
U.S. intelligence officials, citing newly obtained evidence, have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile, and instead is considering ways to conceal the number of weapons it has and secret production facilities, according to U.S. officials.
The evidence, collected in the wake of the June 12 summit in Singapore, points to preparations 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 said.
So it’s probably fair to say that Trump’s post-summit statement last month was a case of premature denuclearization:
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
So does that mean the attempt to engage North Korean is a failure? Well, not yet. Remember, we did get three hostages back and the remains of 55 service members. And as mentioned, we haven’t seen another missile test. So there have been some small signs of improvement, but if there’s another North Korean ICBM test, that would obviously undercut the progress.