We're still finding more undisclosed North Korean missile sites

The timing of this revelation is rather disconcerting, all things considered. NBC News is reporting that a new study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) indicates the North Koreans have a previously undisclosed ballistic missile base hidden away in the mountains. And making matters worse, they think this might be one of as many as twenty such sites the country has never admitted to owning.

With a second U.S.- North Korea nuclear summit looming in February, researchers have discovered a secret ballistic missile base in North Korea — one of as many as 20 undisclosed missile sites in the country, according to the researchers’ new report.

The Kim regime has never disclosed the existence of the Sino-ri Missile Operating Base to the outside world. Ballistic missiles are the primary delivery mechanism for North Korean nuclear warheads.

The report from Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a defense think tank, was released Monday and comes after an announcement Friday that President Donald Trump “looks forward” to meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-Un next month “at a place to be announced at a later date.” NBC News is reaching out for White House reaction.

While there’s no way to confirm it, there are a couple of assumptions we can make based on this report. CSIS can gather a certain amount of insight from analyzing satellite data, but they have sources inside intelligence agencies who release some of these details as they see fit. Based on my own experience dealing with the military and the government, this isn’t some “new” finding. We’ve had this information for quite a while, and if our spooks are putting these details out for the public, it’s because they’ve concluded that keeping the information locked up is no longer particularly useful. And if they’re telling us this much, there’s a lot more they haven’t told us yet.

This news comes out just as final preparations are being made for the next summit between President Trump and North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. The latest guessing game about that meeting suggests that they’ll most likely be going to Vietnam. (Bloomberg)

Administration officials are planning for President Donald Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to take place in Vietnam, said people familiar with the plans.

The White House announced on Friday that Trump would meet Kim in late February, following a 90-minute meeting between the president and Kim Yong Chol, one of the North Korean leader’s top aides. Kim Yong Chol also met Friday with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

How much faith can (or should) Donald Trump place in North Korea’s tiny tyrant if he’s still playing games with his ICBM sites like this? Perhaps not much, but if Trump has the details of the rest of Kim’s bases in hand and can shove them in his face, perhaps they can move past these deceptions.

And that might still be worth exploring. Kim has new incentives to get moving on actual denuclearization rather than just paying lip service to it. As I recently discussed here, the major player at the table in the anticipated summit is somebody who won’t even be there. That would be Xi Jinping. China has hosted Kim in China multiple times since the thaw in relations began under the Trump administration and Xi plans to visit Pyongyang in the near future. China has already begun boosting North Korea’s economy (sometimes illicitly) to prime the pump for some progress.

If Kim isn’t ready to actually deliver on at least some of his promises and stabilize the region for the long term, China holds the leash that could bring him back to heel. It’s conceivable that Kim already has marching orders from Beijing and will be coming to Vietnam ready to cut a deal and start dismantling his nuclear program. If so that will be a huge victory for both the North Korean peninsula and the White House.

Mind you, I still wouldn’t bet my next paycheck on it because Kim remains a murderous and mentally unstable snake. But we do seem closer to some actual progress than we have for a very long time.