Both have access to military intelligence that far exceeds what is available in the private sector.
The CSIS report used satellite imagery to locate the site of “undeclared” North Korean missile bases, notably Sakkanmol, an operational missile base equipped with short-range ballistic missiles that could “easily accommodate” medium-range ballistic warheads.
The Blue House said Tuesday the existence of the missile sites was “nothing new” and rejected the use of the word “deception” by the Times and similar framing of the story by other news outlets, including CNN, citing a risk of undermining sensitive talks.
“Talk of ‘secrets’ or ‘undeclared’ or ‘deception’ can possibly bring misunderstanding at this moment when there is a need for US North Korea dialogue, because it can block the talks and undermine the opening of negotiation,” the Blue House official said.
The official said North Korea had not previously pledged to close the Sakkanmol Missile Base, the focus of the CSIS report, saying “There had been no treaty or negotiation that mandated closing the missile base.”
It’s true that the North Korean missile program was never included in the Singapore statement signed by both leaders, and would not appear to breach any other agreements signed by Pyongyang.
Pyongyang is not violating that pledge by continuing to operate missile sites. In fact, most analysts agree Kim would be foolish to dismantle active facilities without a signed agreement.
Kim is just doing exactly what he promised.
From the moment the June 12 statement was signed, experts voiced skepticism about the lack of specifics and questioned whether the deal would yield any tangible results.
North Korea has long viewed denuclearization as a series of reciprocal steps taken over a long period of time, with both sides making concessions along the way.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and other Trump administration officials, have repeatedly stated North Korea has done nothing to warrant the economic relief it demands.
But even as recently as last week, President Trump said there is “no rush” and reiterated the misleading claims that his historic diplomacy has neutralized the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.
In reality, Kim’s arsenal remains as potent as ever — albeit far less public.
This fact is well known to US intelligence, and has been acknowledged by members of the Trump administration, though not publicly by the President himself, who is known to favor optics over substance.
And in terms of optics, there has been a dramatic shift.
Keeping up appearances
But an official with knowledge of the North Korean position on denuclearization told me last week that the political power shift in Washington after the midterms only reinforces existing North Korean concerns that Kim’s government would be left vulnerable if it agreed to denuclearize upfront, as the US insists, only to face a politically weakened Trump administration unable to deliver on its promises.
In other words, North Korea’s missiles and nuclear warheads are not going anywhere, anytime soon.
The latest developments only threaten to further erode this fragile relationship.
And the South Korean response shows just how delicately it’s being handled.