Trump praised North Korea leader Kim Jong-un last week because Kim said he would get around to that whole denuclearization thing at some point before Trump leaves office, but intelligence officials say the North has taken new steps to conceal their nuclear weapons program.
Intelligence officials who spoke to NBC News also say North Korea is producing nuclear weapons at the same rate they were before the summit in Singapore.
The newest intelligence shows Kim's regime has escalated efforts to conceal its nuclear activity, according to three senior U.S. officials. During the three months since the historic Singapore summit and Trump's proclamation that North Korea intends to denuclearize, North Korea has built structures to obscure the entrance to at least one warhead storage facility, according to the officials.
The U.S. has also observed North Korean workers moving warheads out of the facility, the officials said, though they would not speculate on where the warheads went. [...]
U.S. intelligence assesses North Korea could produce five to eight new nuclear weapons in 2018, according to three current and former senior U.S. officials. That pace is virtually identical to their assessment of the regime's production of about six per year prior to the Trump-Kim summit.
Trump also praised Kim Jong-un last week because their annual military parade did not include empty missile tubes. Trump presented this as evidence that the North is taking steps to disarm.
If that's all it takes to fool Trump, well, you know how this is going to end.
This probably isn't even a fifth time I've said this, but it's truly remarkable how easy it is to manipulate Trump. Even the most irrelevant gestures are more than enough to elicit praise and good press from him. North Korean officials need not even entertain the idea of engaging in substantive negotiations. They can fake it and Trump will accept everything at face value.
You could be generous and surmise that Trump actually understands the truth and only puts on a friendly face for the public, but that would be worse, not better. Every time Trump publicly praises Kim Jong-un, he drives another nail in the coffin of international sanctions.
Trump's happy talk is making it easier for North Korea to continue business as usual, not harder.
I'm sure it's not a coincidence that each time Trump praises Kim Jong-un, anonymous defense and intelligence officials speak to the press to remind us that nothing has actually changed.