President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may or may not be meeting again early next year for their second blockbuster summit. But just because preparations are in the works doesn’t mean Pyongyang is going to stop the nuclear locomotive from barreling full steam ahead.
According to a new report from the Middlebury Institute Jeffrey Lewis and David Schmerler, the North Koreans are expanding a missile base near Yeongjeo-dong close to the Chinese border. And that’s not all; nearby, a second facility was discovered, one that was not previously shielded from the public domain. All of these new disclosures come weeks after researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies identified a network of 13 undeclared North Korean missile bases across the country, some of which are no doubt capable of storing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
What is going on here? Is this another grand “deception” by Kim Jong-un, as the New York Times described? Or could something else be going on that goes against the grain of the popular narrative?
The overriding, bipartisan interpretation of North Korea inside Washington is that the country cannot be trusted to make an agreement and carry it out in an honest and verifiable manner. The Clinton administration’s experience with the North Koreans still sticks in Washington’s craw two decades later; the discovery of a clandestine North Korean uranium enrichment program not less than eight years after the Agreed Framework was signed was confirmation in the minds of many U.S. policy advocates and commentators that negotiating with Pyongyang is not only a waste of time but a dangerous capitulation to the world’s most oppressive regime.
Reports of ongoing missile work at the same time Kim is purportedly expressing an interest in denuclearizing will add even more doubt in the Washington policy community about the dictator’s true intentions. The possibility of Kim pulling a hard-and-fast one on the United States, talking a good game while accelerating his nuclear development in secret, is never far from anyone’s mind.