Despite President Trump‘s insistence that his face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had resulted in nuclear disarmament, satellite images show that North Korea is continuing its ballistic missile program at up to 16 bases.
The New York Times characterized it as a “great deception” this week, noting that North Korea “has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.”
As late as last Wednesday, at his contentious press conference following the midterm elections, Trump suggested the nuclear threat from North Korea was in the past. “We are in no rush,” Mr. Trump said about the progress of talks with the North. “The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.”
But the satellite images show that although missile flight tests haven’t occurred in more than a year, the country’s nuclear program is proceeding. New nuclear weapons are being built, and nuclear material that can be placed on missiles is being created, the Times reports.
This year, Trump’s approach to North Korea has whipsawed between unprecedented provocation and unprecedented intimacy. When reports surfaced that the North Koreans may have developed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the United States, he taunted Kim as “Little Rocket Man” on Twitter. Then, defying decades of precedent and drawing criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Trump announced he would meet face-to-face with Kim, instead of allowing diplomats to draw up preconditions that might result in a meeting only if they were agreed upon.
Before the summit, Kim announced that North Korea had shut down nuclear testing at its primary site, which Trump touted on Twitter. Experts pointed out that the site had been heavily damaged and suggested that North Korea was hiding other testing areas.
After his meeting with Kim in Singapore last June, Trump declared North Korea’s threat to be neutralized. But no specific disarmament had been agreed to; both leaders had signed a letter of intent whose clauses had been recycled from previous agreements North Korea had approved, then disregarded.
The State Department indicated that the U.S. believes North Korea will dismantle the bases. “President Trump has made clear that should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people,” it said in a statement to the Times.
On Monday, a spokesman for President Moon Jae-in of South Korea took issue with the United States’ rosy view. “North Korea has never promised to dismantle its missile bases, nor has it ever joined any treaty that obligates it to dismantle them,” said Kim Eui-kyeom. “If anything, the existence of these missile bases highlights the need for negotiation and dialogue, including those between the North and the United States, to eliminate the North Korean threat.”