North Korea

Officials: North Korea Takes New Steps to Hide Their Nukes

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

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.

  • muselet

    I hate to say this, I really do, but I can’t help but feel at least a little bit of admiration for Kim Jong-un. He’s managed to con the biggest—noisiest, at least—con man the US has produced to date.

    Yeah, Donald Trump is an aggressively ignorant narcissist, which makes him an easy mark, but it still takes at least some skill (and a pair of big, clanging brass ones, as Charlie Pierce has been known to say) to put one over on someone whose entire existence has centered on the grift.

    That said, Trump’s managed to make the world a much more dangerous place by being desperate for ego-strokes.


    • BuffaloBuckeye

      “He’s managed to con the biggest—noisiest, at least—con man the US has produced to date.”

      I think trump is more a mark than a con.

      • muselet

        Clearly, he’s both.


  • Aynwrong

    What happens when Trump is out of office? Presumably whoever the next President will have no interest in playing this ridiculous game with North Korea and be more honest about the lack of progress. Then again, if the next president is a Republican he may have to keep up the charade in order not to disillusion the Trump faithful. Otherwise, they may have to confront the possibility the Donald J. Trump is in fact, not the toughest man on earth.

    • JMAshby

      I think it will be too late for the next president to do anything other than contain the North and prepare to respond if they ever make a move. That’s more or less what previous administrations have done, but things will be different for the next president because it will involve a legitimate nuclear threat.

      • Right, we had a chance to stop it and Trumpov effed it up. Now it’s a different ballgame. There are many similar situations. Like the TPP…by the time we get out from under Trumpov, China will be dominating trade across the Pacific while simultaneously establishing a Navy–something they never had before (we never had to worry about a land war with them, but now we will have to worry about a naval one and NK will be better protected than ever before). Also, China has just pledged to GIVE African nations $60 billion in aid and loans no supposed political strings attached (and if you believe that I have some swamp land to sell you). They’ve long been establishing trade and important ties in Africa and South America and this will simply solidify that. Meanwhile, NATO is permanently weakened since no one will trust the US for decades to come. Every time we have a presidential election they’ll hold their breath and even after the result, they’ll still have some niggling doubts. This strengthens Russia’s hand. And our role in the Middle East has been significantly damaged with Russia taking our place.

        People seeking democratic change won’t seek our aid (because of Syria) and Arab governments will simply take advantage of us without any reciprocal benefits (at least in the past, we occasionally got something out of them). Trumpov has basically been handing Saudi Arabia whatever they want. So basically, our worldwide standing is permanently damaged and the future belongs to China and perhaps to Russia (depending on what Putin and his fellow kleptocrats decide to do with their new found influence). Maybe it’s not such a bad thing as we weren’t doing all that great a job whenever we messed around in other people’s business anyway. But if anyone thinks that China or Russia will do better, they’re delusional.

        Sorry to be so negative but I’m just over it all and I honestly feel like there is no coming back from most of this crap primarily because while Trumpov is horrible in and of himself, he’s merely a symptom of a terrible disease in our body politic and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon–no matter what happens to him.

      • Badgerite

        Probably with more effective ICBMs.