It was bad enough that President Trump lavished praise on North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, unilaterally suspended military exercises with South Korea, and professed to “trust” Kim. Now, it turns out, while stalling about the commencement of talks, North Korea is expanding its nuclear weapons program. NBC News reports:
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News.
The intelligence assessment, which has not previously been reported, seems to counter the sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted after his historic June 12 summit with Kim that “there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
In other words, Trump has been tricked, and the judgment of his national security team in thinking that this year’s actions were any different than previous diplomatic scams has been lousy. Instead of crying foul, announcing resumption of our military exercises and tightening sanctions, Trump is still pretending it’s all been a great success.
Our own intelligence community thinks the president has been played. As for Trump’s Twitter declaration, “analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don’t see it that way, according to more than a dozen American officials who are familiar with their assessments and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration — while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival.”
Despite replete evidence that he was swindled, Trump said during a Fox News interview, “I made a deal with [Kim Jong Un]. I shook hands with him. I really believe he means it.” The problem with a raging narcissist is that he must deny reality in order to avoid embarrassment.
What’s the excuse for the rest of the administration? On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” there was this exchange between host Margaret Brennan and national security adviser John Bolton:
Brennan: The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. intelligence has new evidence that North Korea is trying to obscure and hide the number of missiles, facilities and other parts of its nuclear program. Have you seen any evidence that they’re actually dismantling their nuclear infrastructure?
Bolton: Well I don’t want to comment on that specific report. I really don’t want to comment on anything related to intelligence. I would rather discuss it as a more general proposition.
We’re very well aware of North Korea’s patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States. We know exactly what the risks are of them using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programs and ballistic missiles.
The president would like to see these discussions move promptly to get a resolution. This has been the advice that China’s leader, Xi Jinping has given us as well.
So we’re going to try and proceed to implement what the two leaders agreed to in Singapore. But rather than have a series of reports — things are going better, things are not going well, they are concealing this, they’re not concealing that. Really it doesn’t serve the purpose of advancing the negotiations.
But there’s not any . . . any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this that we’re well, well, well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past.
In promising that denuclearization could transpire in a year, Bolton sounds like the fuzzy-headed progressives he once mocked. (The New York Times reports that a declaration of intent to denuclearize has not arrived. Advisers to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “both outside the government and inside the C.I.A., which [the secretary] used to direct, have cautioned him that North Korea will not give up its arsenal of 20 to 60 weapons until the last stages of any disarmament plan — if it gives them up at all.”
If “we” are aware of the propensity for North Korea to cheat and drag out negotiations, as Bolton says, Trump seems utterly oblivious. Until, and unless, the president is willing to admit that North Korea isn’t doing what it promised — i.e., Trump’s “trust” was utterly and foolishly misplaced — North Korea’s nuclear weapons program will grow and our determination to reverse, let alone dismantle, will deteriorate. In enabling Trump’s dangerous charade, Bolton throws away his reputation for hard-headed realism — the result of which is to assist North Korea in advancing its nuclear weapons program.