North Korea

North Korea Built New Nuclear Infrastructure Between “Love Letters”

Written by SK Ashby

I'm not sure what to call it other than 'embarrassing' that North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un so easily hoodwinked American leadership, but that's what happens when your leader is the world's worst narcissist.

The Washington Post reports between each "love letter" Kim mailed to Trump between 2018 and 2019, North Korea greatly expanded an underground network they've been using to continue and expand their nuclear weapons program ever since.

Citing American and South Korea officials familiar with intelligence reports, the Post report more or less tells us what we already knew; that Kim repeatedly stroked Trump's ego because he knew it would work. But their report also expands the scope of what North Korea has done during Trump's term in office.

At six of the country’s missile bases, trucks hauled rock from underground construction sites as workers dug a maze of new tunnels and bunkers, allowing North Korea to move weapons around like peas in a shell game. Southeast of the capital, meanwhile, new buildings sprouted across an industrial complex that was processing uranium for as many as 15 new bombs, according to current and former U.S. and South Korean officials, as well as a report by a United Nations panel of experts.

The new work reflects a continuation of a pattern observed by analysts since the first summit between Trump and Kim in 2018. While North Korea has refrained from carrying out provocative tests of its most advanced weapon systems, it never stopped working on them, U.S. intelligence officials said. Indeed, new evidence suggests that Kim took advantage of the lull by improving his ability to hide his most powerful weapons and shield them from future attacks. [...]

For Kim’s part, the easing of tensions has opened new routes for circumventing sanctions while his factories quietly churn out more nuclear warheads and bigger missiles to carry them, current and former U.S. intelligence analysts and nuclear experts say.

“North Korea hasn’t stopped building nuclear weapons or ­developing missile systems; they’ve just stopped displaying them,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for ­Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. “They stopped doing the things that made bad news cycles for Trump.”

Exports who spoke to the Washington Post say they've seen signs that Kim Jong-un may be ready to start conducting weapons tests again, but he will refrain until after the presidential election because he would prefer to see Trump reelected.

It makes sense. Trump has been the greatest gift North Korea has received in the last half century. The North had always been a pariah state even before their nuclear weapons program existed because of brutal repression and human rights abuses, but Trump gave the North and the Kim dynasty a new lease on legitimacy they've literally never enjoyed before.

If Joe Biden is elected in November, Kim Jong-un will test the Biden administration in the early days of his term and there won't be a whole lot he can do about it. Both politically and physically, Trump has delivered advantages to North Korea that future administrations even beyond Biden's won't be able to undo.

Considering what Republicans said about President Obama -- considering what Trump himself said about President Obama -- that he was metaphorically if not literally kneeling before dictators, is quaint in hindsight. Trump literally rolled out the red carpet for them, in the case of Kim Jong-un, and stopped just short of spit-shining their shoes.

I'm not a foreign policy hawk in any sense, but even I can recognize the danger in letting a rogue regime like North Korea do whatever they like because at some point they may try to export it if they haven't already. Being against nuclear proliferation is a liberal position. It used to be a conservative position, too, but that apparently only holds true if you're Iranian. Republicans have turned a blind eye to North Korea and the Trump regime has shared nuclear information with the Saudis. They walked away from the Iran nuclear deal even though it was working. Like literally everything else, Republicans have highly politicized foreign policy and merged it with domestic policy.

A group of over 50 former Republican national security officials endorsed Joe Biden today.

Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, also endorsed Biden on Thursday during an interview with MSNBC.

McChrystal, who resigned in 2010 after a Rolling Stone article quoted him making unflattering remarks about Biden and other civilian officials, said he always respected Biden and the incident was “more smoke than fire.”

“We have to believe in our values. You have to believe that your commander in chief, at the end of the day, is someone that you can trust, and I can trust Joe Biden,” he said.