A group of independent experts and observers published a study last week demonstrating that North Korea has continued to upgrade their primary nuclear research facility following Kim Jong-un's meeting with Trump, but they've apparently done far more than that.
The independent study relied on publicly available commercial satellite imagery but that obviously can't tell us everything the intelligence community with access to spy satellites knows.
NBC News reported late on Friday that intelligence officials say North Korea has increased production of nuclear fuel at secret sites following Kim's meeting with Trump.
In recent months, even as the two sides engaged in diplomacy, North Korea was stepping up its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, five U.S. officials say, citing the latest intelligence assessment. North Korea and the U.S. agreed at the summit to "work toward" denuclearization, but there is no specific deal. On Trump's order, the U.S. military canceled training exercises on the Korean peninsula, a major concession to Kim.
While the North Koreans have stopped missile and nuclear tests, "there's no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production," said one U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence. "There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S."
Intelligence officials say the same thing today that they said before the summit in Singapore: Kim Jong-un is trying to get everything he can out of Trump without ever giving up his nuclear weapons.
Everything we know tells us Kim has been pretty successful. Even agreeing to meet Kim in person was a major concession and Trump tied the knot by signing an empty agreement that committed the United States to canceling military exercises but did not commit North Korea to anything.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning that another independent assessment found that North Korea was upgrading and expanding their primary missile manufacturing plant at the same time Kim was meeting with Trump.
The facility makes solid-fuel ballistic missiles—which would be able to strike U.S. military installations in Asia with a nuclear weapon with little warning—as well as re-entry vehicles for warheads that Pyongyang might use on longer-range missiles able to hit the continental U.S.
New images analyzed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., show that North Korea was finishing construction on the exterior of the plant at around the time North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore last month. The U.S. is pushing Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic-missile programs.
Trump has publicly admitted that his gamble with North Korea may not work, but that's not necessarily an admission that it isn't working.
It's possible Trump will never acknowledge it's not working and he'll continue to give up concessions to the North even if the North gives up nothing in return.
For Trump, maintaining appearances is all that matters. He knows the conservative media won't call him out on it.
I'm no expert, but I think this will end with North Korea fully legitimized as a nuclear state if it isn't already. When Trump is gone, Kim Jong-un will still be in power and he'll still have his nuclear weapons. You can debate if that's actually a good or bad thing if the alternative is war, but that's where I see this ending.