Secret North Korean missile sites located?

Some disappointing, if not entirely surprising news out of the Korean peninsula this week. U.S. military analysts studying satellite data have discovered more than a dozen previously undisclosed, secret missile construction facilities in North Korea. Considering that much of the ongoing negotiations between America and Kim Jong-un have revolved around transparency and inspections of such facilities (and the lack of progress thus far), confirming that Little Rocket Man was keeping these out of the discussions doesn’t exactly raise our level of confidence in his sincerity. (Boston Globe)

U.S. analysts said Monday they have located 13 secret North Korean missile development sites, underscoring the challenge that the Trump administration faces in trying to reach its promised broad arms control agreement with Pyongyang.

The administration has said it is hopeful about eventually reaching an agreement with North Korea. President Donald Trump declared after his historic summit in June that with President Kim Jong Un there was ‘‘no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.’’ But a report based on satellite imagery shows the complexity posed by an extensive network of weapons facilities that the U.S. wants to neutralize.

A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies has identified 13 secret facilities used to produce missiles and related technology. Although the sites are not launch facilities and in some cases are rudimentary, the authors of the report say they are hidden and illustrate the scope of the North’s weapons program and the country’s determination to conceal its military might.

Before we set off too many alarm bells here, it’s worth noting that none of these are new nuclear sites that the North Koreans have been working on during the negotiations. They aren’t launch sites, but construction facilities for missiles of various designs. There’s also a high likelihood that we’re dealing with a mix of “new” information here which may not be new at all. It’s possible, if not likely, that our intelligence community already knew about some or all of them, but chose not to reveal that information to the public until now.

If that’s the case, this may be a calculated move intended to force Kim’s hand and put pressure on him as the negotiations continue. Kim has never agreed to halt his nuclear weapons program or missile development until more concessions are made. Since we’re not inclined to put too much on the table he probably hasn’t felt terribly motivated to come entirely clean.

Keep an eye on this story in the coming days and weeks. If Kim feels “betrayed” by the release of this report, it could be the sort of excuse he’s been wating for to walk away from negotiations with the United States as I’ve suggested in the past he might do. That’s particularly true if he thinks his ongoing negotiations with South Korea and China are going his way. The less pressure he feels from a unified international community, the longer the odds that he’ll surrender all of his nuclear toys.

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