NATIONAL

N. Korea aims to hide key parts of nuclear program: reports

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Jul 1, 2018 - 18:21
  • Updated : Jul 1, 2018 - 18:21
Even as North Korea engages in diplomacy with the US for denuclearization, US intelligence officials have spotted evidence that points to the communist nation’s unwillingness to fully dismantle its nuclear program while concealing key parts, the Washington Post said Sunday.

The assessment contradicts US President Donald Trump’s remarks that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” following a landmark summit with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore. 

Satellite image of Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea. (Yonhap)

The evidence collected aims 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 told the Washington Post.

Noting the source of the report, experts here are interpreting it as a warning from the US to North Korea that the agreement to denuclearize should be implemented honestly, ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s possible visit to Pyongyang.

“There is a possibility that it’s a warning sign to the North Korea that they are and will be aware of such concealments,” a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University said.

“It’s also a push for a more swift progress as the overall delay in process could make room for such tricks,” he added.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly plans to travel to North Korea this week to discuss denuclearization plans in a follow-up to the Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The US and North Korea were expected to cooperate for follow-up negotiations at a speedy pace, following the summit, but there has been no visible progress so far.

North Korea has yet to return the remains of US soldiers who died in the country during the Korean War -- an agreement reached at the summit -- despite Trump’s remarks last week claiming that transfers were under way, according to Pompeo on Sunday.

Suspicions over North Korea’s commitment to denuclearize has been growing as NBC News also reported over the weekend that Pyongyang has in fact recently been increasing fuel production for nuclear weapons at several hidden sites.

The US network, citing intelligence officials, said North Korea’s regime was preparing to “extract every concession” from the White House rather than relinquishing its nuclear weapons.

The only uranium enrichment facility North Korea has publicly acknowledged is Yongbyon -- though reports of secret facilities have surfaced.

Experts have voiced concerns that Washington may accept a lukewarm deal centered exclusively on Yongbyon that disregards other underground sites.
Pompeo told lawmakers on Wednesday that North Korea remains a nuclear threat, but defended Trump‘s earlier remarks that North Korea no longer remains a nuclear threat.

“I‘m confident what (Trump) intended there was, ’we did reduce the threat,‘” Pompeo told a Senate panel. “I don’t think there‘s any doubt about that.”

“We took the tension level down,” he added.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)