Don’t trust. Then verify anyway. And when you do with North Korea this summer, you find some unpromising developments.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that analysts of satellite photos have detected the continuation of a major expansion of a North Korean solid-fuel ballistic rocket factory, even as Pyongyang talks with President Trump in Singapore about working “toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Most of North Korea’s missile tests have involved liquid-fueled missiles, which take hours to prepare and fuel, giving potential targets time to activate defenses. The North flight-tested three ICBMs last year capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Solid-fuel missiles comprise the bulk of modern missile arsenals in most countries, including the United States and Russia. They allow the weapons to be stored underground in silos and in attack submarines, and require only minutes to launch. A solid-fuel missile arsenal would escalate North Korea’s threat level considerably.
Technically, Kim Jung-un’s regime is not violating the Singapore Summit agreements because there really were no details in the agreements and no timelines set for implementing anything. Secy. of State Mike Pompeo is to meet with North Korean officials soon to continue talks. And then, of course, there’s a summit looming with Russian President Putin this month.
Continuing a major missile factory expansion could be seen as a sign of bad faith, which would fit with North Korea’s historic negotiating behavior of signing agreements, then ignoring them. That’s how they got as far as they have in ballistic and weapons technology.
This time, however, Kim got no concessions for his signature. Trump’s tough sanctions continue. And having a genuine solid-fuel capacity could give Kim more leverage during long-term talks.
One other unknown is how far along is North Korea’s development of a reentry vehicle. The nose cone protects a nuclear warhead during its searing supersonic reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Journal article on its subscription site quoted David Schmerler of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies: “The expansion of the production infrastructure for North Korea’s solid-fuel missile infrastructure probably suggests that Kim Jong-un does not intend to abandon his nuclear and missile programs.”