North Korea Continues Ballistic Missile Development with Undeclared Military Sites
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has issued a new report, with new satellite images, detailing an undeclared operational missile base in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). The Nov. 12, 2018 report by the Washington, D.C. think tank confirms doubts over Pyongyang’s commitment to disarmament — specifically, its promise to halt the pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads — and casts further skepticism regarding its promise to work towards denuclearization, which was agreed upon during the historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and United States President Donald Trump in June of this year.
Along with highly detailed satellite images, the CSIS report contains detailed analysis of what the think tank claims to be at least 20 hidden bases. While Pyongyang offered to dismantle a major missile launch site, the report states that other sites are being upgraded — including sites designed to build conventional warheads and other sites for nuclear warheads. Additionally, the findings show that the regime has focused on developing its mobile launchers that would be ready to fire in under an hour, should the regime’s leaders make the decision to do so.
In response to the findings published by CSIS, The New York Times called out North Korea for “[engaging] in a great deception” — language that was echoed by other US media outlets. While US intelligence agencies declined to comment on the findings, a written statement by the US State Department reiterated that “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.”
However, the South Korean government has criticized the idea of North Korea engaging in a deception, with a Blue House spokesman stating that “the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the US have far more detailed information from military satellites and are closely monitoring the site.” The same spokesman went on to take issue with The New York Times describing the situation as a “great deception,” noting that Pyongyang had not agreed on dismantling the site identified by CSIS, thus rendering the characterization of a “deception” on Pyongyang’s part inappropriate.
Indeed, despite President Trump’s claim that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” made on Twitter after the Singapore summit, the US-North Korea summit did not produce a concrete plan for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. On denuclearization, the document contained a single line: “reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Contrary to President Trump’s optimistic tone, there are signs that diplomacy between the Trump Administration and the Kim regime has stalled. Last week, scheduled talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart were cancelled.
While the administration and Kim regime laid out a series of steps towards denuclearization — with the first step being North Korean officials handing US the list of nuclear sites, weapons, and production facilities, along with missile bases — US Vice President Mike Pence told NBC on Nov. 15 that the US would drop the declaration requirement for a second Trump-Kim summit slated to happen sometime after New Years.
While stating that the US-North Korea negotiations have had “tremendous progress,” Vice President Pence also stated that US will maintain maximum pressure on the Kim regime “until we have a plan that is implemented to achieve complete, verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization.” Currently, Pyongyang is subject to a complicated multilateral sanctions regime under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council; however, observers note that Moscow and Beijing have been effectively disregarding certain aspects of the sanctions regime, thus weakening the effect of the sanctions on Pyongyang.
With regards to the goals of the second Trump-Kim summit, Vice President Pence declared that “it will be absolutely imperative in this next summit that we come away with a plan for identifying all the weapons in question, identifying all the development sites, allowing for inspections of the sites and the plan for dismantling nuclear weapons.