“WE’RE IN no rush,” President Trump declared last week about efforts to slow or reverse North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Well, North Korea is also in no rush. After Mr. Trump’s showy June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Pyongyang’s nuclear materials production, missile operating sites and brutal concentration camps are all still grinding along.
It is true that North Korea has not tested a missile or an atomic bomb lately. But nor has it been idle. In a report published on Monday, Beyond Parallel, a project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, documented with satellite imagery 13 North Korean missile operating bases, and perhaps as many as 20, that have been undeclared by the government. The disclosure is another reminder that North Korea has rebuffed the U.S. demand for a complete inventory of its nuclear weapons programs, while insisting the United States make a full declaration of the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War. Mr. Kim is a wily negotiator. In September, he pledged to “permanently dismantle” a missile engine test site, a mere fraction of the missile and nuclear weapons complex that is still running at full steam, including the newly disclosed sites, such as Sakkanmol, which handles short-range missiles and is located about 50 miles north of the demilitarized zone.
Since the summit, Mr. Trump has swooned in unseemly fashion that “we fell in love” when Mr. Kim wrote to him: “No, really — he wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters.” In fact, while Mr. Kim has focused on a rapprochement with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, the Trump approach to slowing North Korea’s nuclear weapons systems appears to be at an impasse. A meeting scheduled for Nov. 8 between North Korean officials and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fell apart. Mr. Kim, like his father, is well versed in the tools of deception, delay, threat and extortion. He is proving it once again, to the detriment of Mr. Trump — and global security.
Meanwhile, the human rights catastrophe in North Korea is unaddressed. Four years ago, a United Nations commission of inquiry found “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” by North Korea, including “crimes against humanity” perpetrated by the state. Now, the U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said, “The human rights situation at the moment has not changed on the ground in North Korea despite the important progress on security, peace and prosperity.” He added, “What is needed from North Korea is a signal that they will discuss human rights . . . . We haven’t heard anything coming from the summits in this respect.”
A few years ago, the world was shocked to discover North Korea had one, then six, nuclear weapons. The number is now probably in the dozens. Tens of thousands of people are suffering in brutal prison camps. But who’s in a rush?