North Korea’s missile program was expanding as Trump met with Kim: report
The report comes amid talks between North Korea and U.S. officials on denuclearization; U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to the Asian nation on July 5 for talks, the White House confirmed on Monday.
According to satellite images analyzed by the independent Middlebury Institute of International Studies, the Chemical Material Institute in Hamhung was expanding just before the time of the meeting.
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The factory makes engines for a type of ballistic missile, as well as other missile components. CNN reports that missile nozzles and airframes are developed on site.
“The expansion suggests that, despite hopes for denuclearization, Kim Jong Un is committed to increasing North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear-armed missiles,” the report states, according to Bloomberg.
Report author David Schmerler told CNN the Chemical Material Institute “seems like they have one function, and that’s pumping out parts for their missile program.”
The White House declined to comment on the report. The satellite images show that the expansion of the plant happened in May, which was just before the summit between with Trump and after a meeting with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.
Both meetings discussed the denuclearization of North Korea as a path to peace in the region.
The specific wording said North Korea would “work towards” denuclearization.
U.S. officials also said they were not convinced that North Korea was stopping missile production and testing.
“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” one anonymous official told NBC News last week.
“There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S.”
The White House declined to comment on the report.
The images seem to contradict Trump’s reassurances that North Korea will fulfill their promise to denuclearize.
Just one day earlier, White House national security adviser John Bolton told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Washington has devised a program to dismantle North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological and nuclear — and ballistic missile programs in a year, if there is full cooperation and disclosure from Pyongyang.
“If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they’re cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he said. “Physically, we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programs within a year.”
*with files from Reuters
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